More than 1,200 UAE nationals are currently enrolled in US higher education institutions for the 2008-09 academic year according to the Open Doors 2009 Report published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) this month. This figure is a 24 per cent jump from the previous year.
According to IIE figures, 60 per cent of Emiratis are undergraduate students, 17 per cent graduate and 21 per cent are studying at a non-degree (English language and other short-term training or non-degree programme) level, said IIE official Sharon Witherell. A further 2 per cent are doing optional practical training after the conclusion of their academic work.
Effects of recession
Witherell said 345 US students came to the UAE for study abroad programmes in the 2007-08 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available.
The Open Doors 2009 Report considers enrolments in the 2008-09 academic year based on a survey of approximately 3,000 accredited US higher education institutions. The institutions are of all types and sizes, thus including international students at all levels of study. The report states that the findings do not reflect the full impact of the past year's economic downturn, since student decisions to study in the US were most likely made before the effects of the recession were fully felt.
According to the 2008-09 census, 671,616 international students chose to study in the US compared to 623,805 in 2008, an 8 per cent increase. "This is the largest percentage increase in international student enrolments since 1980-81," said Witherell.
Open Doors 2009 data also shows the number of "new" international students — those enrolled for the first time at a US college or university in fall 2008 — increasing by 16 per cent.
This follows two years of 10 per cent increases. The largest growth was seen in undergraduate enrolments which increased by 11 per cent compared to a 2 per cent increase in graduate enrolments. This growth was driven largely by an increase in undergraduate students from China.
India on top
For the statistics, students were classified according to their country of origin rather than their most immediate country of residence, namely according to the passports they hold.
For the eighth consecutive year, India remains the leading country of origin for international students. Indian students to the US have increased by 9 per cent to 103,260.
Students from China, once again the second leading sender, increased by 21 per cent to 98,510.
South Korea, in third place, increased its student number by 9 per cent to 75,065.
Most sought-after courses
Business and management continue to be the most sought-after fields with 138,565 students choosing business-related courses. This is a 21 per cent increase over the previous year.
Engineering is the second most sought-after programme with 118,980 students choosing it. An increase of 18 per cent has been recorded in this field.
According to the report, universities in California hosted the largest number of foreign students with 93,124, up 10 per cent.
It is followed by New York with 74,934, up 7 per cent, and Texas with 58,188, up 12 per cent.
For the eighth consecutive year, Open Doors reported that the University of Southern California hosted the largest number of international students with 7,482 this year.
New York University came in second with 6,761 international students, and Columbia University, held steady in third place with 6,685.
Rounding out the top five 2008-09 host institutions are the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (6,570 students) and Purdue University (6,136 students).
International students contribute $17.8 billion (Dh65.38 billion) to the US economy through their expenditure on tuition and living expenses, according to the US Department of Commerce.