Foreign student applications on rise in US

The number of foreign ­students applying to graduate schools in the US rose for the second year in a row, according to a survey released on Monday.

The survey, which was conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools, said this year’s 8 per cent increase in foreign applications – which comes on the heels of last year’s 12 per cent rise – was an indication that the US government’s attempts at making the student visa process more user-friendly appeared to be working.

Despite these rises, however, the number of international applications is still down 27 per cent since 2003.

The number of foreign students applying to US graduate schools fell in 2004 and 2005, after the state department imposed restrictions on foreign students seeking visas to the US in the wake of the September 11 2001, terrorist attacks. Those drops fuelled industry fears that declining numbers of international students could hurt US competitiveness.

But in recent years the department has made considerable improvements to its visa policy – including the extension of visas for ­science and engineering ­students. It also bulked up its staff, which has shortened visa application processing times.

Debra Stewart, the CGS president, said the two years of increased applications were “welcome news”, but added: “It will still take us many years to catch up to where we were before 2001. We are by no means out of the woods yet.

While many US universities have expanded their recruitment of foreign students, so too have universities in other countries, which means that international students have an increasing number of options of where to study, Ms Stewart added.

“While the federal government has taken positive steps to improve visa processing, we must adopt policies that encourage international students to pursue graduate study in the US in order to strengthen our competitiveness and security in the global economy,” she said.

This year’s increase was driven mainly by a growing number of applicants from India and China – the two countries that annually send the most students to the US.

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