25% increase in number of Indian students in US; desi students prefer STEM fields

Indian students contributed $5 billion to the US economy.library-berkeley

United States remains as one of the top educational destinations for Indian students, as the 2015-16 academic year saw 25% growth in Indian students seeking admission in US universities.

According to Open Doors report, a record 165,918 Indian students are studying in the US, a 7% increase than the last academic year, making India the second leading country after China to send students to America for pursuing higher studies.

The report says that a total of 1.7 lakh student are studying in the US, making India one of the leading countries sending aspirants to do higher studies in the US.

A majority of the Indian students study for courses at the graduate level. A total of 64% students study at the graduate level; 11.6 undergraduate; 1.5% others and 25.5% Optional Practical Training (OPT).

The figures of Institute of International Education show that Indian students comprise of 15.9% of total international students and have contributed $5 billion to the US economy during 2015-16.

Once again China topped the list of countries that send international students to the US, with 31.5% of international students hailing from China.

China, India, and Saudi Arabia are the three top countries that send students to the US. 53% of total international students come from these three countries combined.

Top 10 sending places of origin and percentage of total international student enrollment:

Rank Place of Origin Number of Students Percent of Total
1 China 328,547 31.5%
2 India 165,918 15.9%
3 Saudi Arabia 61,287 5.9%
4 South Korea 61,007 5.8%
5 Canada 26,973 2.6%
6 Vietnam 21,403 2.1%
7 Taiwan 21,127 2.0%
8 Brazil 19,370 1.9%
9 Japan 19,060 1.8%
10 Mexico 16,733 1.6%


According to the report, there are close to 10,43,839 international students currently studying in the US, which accounts for 5% of total higher education population of the US.

According to the Department of Commerce, the international student population in the US contribute $36 billion to the US economy annually.

The report also indicates that 75% of the international student population get funds from outside the US, mainly from their family and personal friends in addition to the educational aids provided by their home country through government and universities.

Interestingly, the number of students seeking higher studies in the UK has declined considerably says BBC. It said over the last four years, the country has seen a steep decline in the number of Indian students seeking admission with one estimate citing a 50% drop.

The tougher visa rules and changing value of rupee against the dollar are cited as the reasons for the fall in the number of Indian students.

The Open Doors report has also revealed the widening gender gap among international students over the last two years. The report says, in the academic year 2015-16 only 43% student who secured admission in US universities were women – a drop of three percent compared to the report five years back when the percentage was 45%.

One of the reasons cited for the decline in the growing international trend of fewer women pursuing higher studies in STEM fields. However, there is an overall increase in the number of International students pursuing STEM courses and this is largely attributed to the increase in the number of Indian students who prefer to study in STEM fields.

California with 1.5 lakh international students in 2015-16, is the top destination for international students. Thanks to the 20 top institutions situated in California with the University of Southern California ranking second, just behind New York University.

Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice-president, research and evaluation, IIE, was quoted by the Mint newspaper saying “with the stabilizing of the rupee against the dollar over the past couple of years, Indian students who had put their plans on hold were then able to come to the US”.

“Lastly, the tightening of policies in the UK might have diverted some of the Indian students who would have studied there to the US instead.”

Interestingly, a BBC report had earlier suggested that the movie industry is one of the reasons why international students, especially students from India, choose US ahead of UK for higher studies.

According to the report, movies such as The Beautiful Mind, The Social Network and The Graduate, all set in top US universities such as Princeton, Harvard, and Berkeley respectively has played as a mouthpiece that spread the word about the academic facilities in these universities to an international audience.

Adding to this, a hand full of Bollywood movies were also shot inside US Universities, especially at the University of Leicester, showcasing aspirants the brighter side of studying in the US.

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