Where are US, UK
Will the United States and United Kingdom continue to attract international students? Donald Trump’s attitude to ‘outsiders and immigrants’ and the Theresa May-led UK government’s recent visa policies indicate that the going might get tough for young Indians firming up their study abroad plans.
According to Phil Baty, editor, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, a surge in populist feeling against foreigners and immigrants in the US and the UK, and dramatic changes to the political landscape at the back of such sentiment, is likely to harm both countries as destinations for all international students.
After Donald Trump’s election was confirmed, Times Higher Education witnessed increased website traffic to pages featuring Australian and Canadian universities. “We have already seen that restrictive visa policies and hostile rhetoric in the UK has led to a serious and alarming drop in the number of Indian students coming to study in the UK. Such moves could be seriously harmful to both American and British higher education. One of the things that makes both countries thrive in global rankings and which makes their universities the envy of the world is that the universities themselves are committed to being truly open and truly international, welcoming talented people from all over the world,” Baty says.
Fewer foreign students would hit Western universities not just financially, but intellectually and culturally, to the detriment of both nations, says Baty.
In this scenario, it is however, very important to stress that university leaders and universities remain absolutely committed to welcoming international students. Students who ignore the rhetoric from politicians would still be made very welcome in UK and US institutions.
“Only last week, in Davos, I was talking to Subra Suresh, the India-born president of Carnegie Mellon University in the US, one of the very best in the world. He was determined to stress that the US and UK, both opportunities available to him when he first came to the US as a postgraduate student must remain open to today’s students and future students,” adds Baty.
Universities in the two countries have been running social media campaigns seeking to reassure international students that they very much welcome. These include #weareinternational and #youarewelcomehere.
US and UK have witnessed contrasting trends with at least four places of origin – India, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Hong Kong. Ten times as many Indian students are studying in the US as in the UK. American higher education institutions are more dependent on China and India as compared to British institutions.
Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of DrEducation, a US- based research and consulting firm specialising in international student mobility trends and enrolment strategies, says while the UK has an advantage over the US in attracting international students from Nigeria, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, it cannot underestimate the Indian market because of its scale and growth potential. UK faces stiff competition for Indian students against the US, which experienced a dramatic increase in the number of Indian students primarily in engineering and computer science fields.
With Brexit, the post-graduation employment and immigration opportunities will become more restricted. It is likely to hurt the enrolment for the master’s programmes for nonEU international students and undergraduate programmes for EU students, he adds. Despite high quality and reliable reputation of the British higher education system, unwelcoming immigration policies are very likely to hurt the attractiveness of the UK as a study abroad destination. “UK universities rely heavily on international students for meeting its enrolment goals. The competing destinations like Australia and Canada with more welcoming immigration policies may benefit from this turbulence,” says Choudaha.
Experts also say that the US and the UK, for somewhat the same reasons, will become less attractive to international students in the near future. There will be a variety of implications of the “Brexit mentality” in the UK and “Trumpism” in the US, likely making visas somewhat more difficult to obtain.
According to Prof Philip Altbach, founding director, Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, although no one knows the details yet, “The rhetoric relating to internationalism in both countries is already changing. On the other hand, both countries will remain among the largest host countries or international students – the quality of universities, the use of English, among other factors, will continue to attract students. Other English-speaking host countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, are likely to be more attractive. Some European countries may also benefit by a decline of the US and UK. And some potential international students may decide to stay home,” says Prof Altbach. Every year, a number of Indian students who wish to study abroad choose the US and the UK. But the political changes in the last one year in the two countries has left Indians thinking how it will impact their chances of pursuing higher education in these countries.
Recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency UK shows a decline in number of Indian students to the UK.
India saw the largest percentage decrease, at 44% between 2011/12 and 2015/16. In numbers, this meant that in 2015/16, the number of student enrolments domiciled from India was 13,150 less than in 2011/12.
It is worth noting however, that the decline in student enrolments domiciled from India began in 2010/11.
Though t he Open Doors report on international students in the US says that the growth in international science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) students is likely connected to the 25% increase in students from India, experts say Trump’s win might leave students skeptical.
Rahul Choudaha, co-founder of DrEducation, a US- based research and consulting firm specialising in international student mobility trends and enrolment strategies, says the biggest challenge for British universities is that its top two source countries – China and India – are not driving the enrolment growth. These two countries account for over one-third of the total international student enrolment in the country.
For the last four years, the overall enrolment for China has grown at a much slower pace ( compared to the US), while India has been experiencing a consistent decline.
Despite the growth in number of Indian students, the US higher education is also facing a tougher environment for attracting inter national students for fall 2017. Three of the four top source countries – China, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia – are witnessing a slower rate of growth.
“India was the only market among the top four countries, which witnessed a double-digit growth rate. Indian students are value-seekers and hence they are concentrated in master’s programmes, which offer a more likely work experience through three-year long STEM Optional Practical Training. However, with the recent demonetisation of Indian currency and a perception of stricter immigration policies, Indian numbers are likely to be affected at the master’s programmes,” he adds.