Open doors 2010

Press Release

International Academic Exchange between the United States and the Middle East on the Rise

Middle East student enrollments on U.S. campuses increased by 16%, while U.S. study abroad to the Middle East increased by 9.2%

DOHA, December 7, 2010—IIE President and CEO Dr. Allan E. Goodman, in Doha for the second annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), announced that the number of students from the Middle East at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 16 percent to a total of 33,797 students in the 2009/10 academic year, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, which is published annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The report shows particularly strong increases in enrollments of students from Qatar, UAE, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The number of students from Qatar studying in the United States increased by 43 percent, to 663 Qatari students enrolled in American colleges and universities. In addition to the students from Qatar enrolled on campuses in the United States, there were approximately 600 more Qatari students enrolled in U.S. institutions in Education City. Other Middle Eastern countries with large increases in students enrolled in U.S. higher education include UAE (up 36% to 1,653), Iran (up 34% to 4,731), Saudi Arabia (up 25% to 15,810), and Kuwait (up 20% to 2,442).

IIE’s Open Doors report also finds that American students are choosing to study abroad in the Middle East in increasing numbers, although starting from a very low base. The number of American students studying in the Middle East increased by 9.2 percent, though the region is host to a little more than 1 percent of the total number of U.S. students studying abroad. The report shows the number of U.S. students rising dramatically in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE, although the total numbers are still low. Seventy American students received academic credit from their U.S. home institutions for study in Qatar.

Overall, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 3 percent to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year. This represents a record high number of international students in the United States. This year’s growth was primarily driven by a 30 percent increase in Chinese student enrollment in the United States to a total of nearly 128,000 students, or more than 18 percent of the total international student population, making China the leading sending country. Students from India increased by 2 percent to a total of nearly 105,000. Indian students represent 15 percent of all international students in U.S. higher education.

Open Doors 2010 also reports that 260,327 U.S. students studied abroad for credit during the academic year 2008/09, compared to 262,416 the previous year, a modest decline of 0.8 percent. For the first time in the 25 years that the data has been tracked, the total number of U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit did not increase. However, the report found that there were notable increases in the number of U.S. students going to study in less traditional destinations. Fifteen of the top 25 destinations were outside of Western Europe and nineteen were countries where English is not a primary language, reflecting a strong commitment to the value of an international academic experience to prepare them to live and work in a more global society.

According to Dr. Goodman, “Educational exchange is a critical component of promoting closer relations and dialogue between the people of the Middle East and the United States. It enables students and future leaders to collaborate across political and cultural borders to address shared global challenges. This year’s Open Doors report demonstrates that we are making positive progress in this effort, but also indicates that educators and policymakers from both regions must continue to use all the tools at our disposal to increase student mobility in both directions between the United States and the countries of the Middle East.”

In June IIE's Center for International Partnerships published Innovation Through Education: Building the Knowledge Economy in the Middle East, a new book examining the focus of the governments of several Middle Eastern countries on education as a central feature of national development policies. The book looks at aspirations within the region to build human capacity through increased access to higher education, and examines new models for higher education opportunities. Innovation Through Education is the latest in a series of timely reports published through a partnership between IIE and the American Institute For Foreign Study Foundation.

The book is one of several IIE initiatives designed to strengthen higher education bonds between the U.S. and Middle East. IIE delivers programs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that reach more than 7,000 students, scholars, and professionals. As a result of IIE’s partnerships with corporations, governments, ministries, foundations, and the U.S. government, thousands of students, scholars, and professionals from the region have gained access to the world’s leading higher education and training programs.

IIE-administered programs in the MENA region have wide-ranging, tangible impact. They help to build capacity through training in science and technology, youth leadership development projects, and women’s empowerment initiatives. IIE partners with the U.S. Department of State, and with universities such as KAUST and NYU Abu Dhabi, energy companies like Exxon Mobil, and technology companies like Microsoft to serve the region’s need for international education and training.

Highlights from Open Doors 2010

International Student Enrollments in the United States

China is the leading place of origin for international students in the United States with 127,628 in 2009/10 (an increase of 30% from the previous year), followed by #2 India (104,897, up 2%), #3 South Korea (72,153, down 4%), #4 Canada (28,145, down 5%), #5 Taiwan (26,685 down 5%), #6 Japan (24,842 down 15%), #7 Saudi Arabia (15,810, up 25%), #8 Mexico (13,450, down 9%), #9 Vietnam (13,112 up 2%), #10 Turkey (12,397, up 2%), #11 Nepal (11,233, down 3%), #12 Germany (9,548, down 1%), #13 United Kingdom (8,861, up 2%), #14 Brazil (8,786, up less than 1%), #15 Thailand (8,531, down 2%), #16 Hong Kong (8,034, down 4%), #17 France (7,716, up 4%), #18 Indonesia (6,943, down 8%), #19 Colombia (6,920, down 1%), #20 Nigeria (6,568 up 5%), #21 Malaysia (6,190, up 4%), #22 Kenya (5,384, down 8%), #23 Pakistan (5,222, down 1%), #24 Venezuela (4,958, up 6%), and #25 Russia (4,827, down 2%).

The top ten most popular fields of study for international students in the United States in 2009/10 were Business and Management (21% of total), Engineering (18%), Physical and Life Sciences (9%), Mathematics and Computer Science (9%), Social Sciences (9%), Fine & Applied Arts (5%), Health Professions (5%), Intensive English Language (4%), Education (3%), Humanities (3%), and Agriculture (2%). Undeclared majors are excluded from the rankings of top fields of study.

For the ninth year in a row, the University of Southern California is the leading host institution with 7,987 international students. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts the second highest number of foreign students (7,287), with New York University a close #3 (7,276). Other campuses in the top 10 are: Purdue University (6,903), Columbia University (6,833), University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (6,095), University of California – Los Angeles (5,685), Michigan State University (5,358), University of Texas – Austin (5,265), and Boston University (5,172).

California remains the leading host state for international students (94,279, up 1%), followed by New York (76,146, up 2%), Texas (58,934, up 1%), Massachusetts (35,313, up 4%), Illinois (31,093, up 4%), Florida (29,708, down 2%), Pennsylvania (28,097, up 2%), Michigan (24,214, up 3%), Ohio (22,370, up 8%), and Indiana (18,569, up 9%).

U.S. Students Studying Abroad

The United Kingdom remained the most popular destination, with a total of 31,342 (a 6% decline). Italy is second, declining 11% to 27,362, followed by #3 Spain (24,169, down 4%), #4 France (16,910, down 3%), and #5 China (13,674, up 4%). Other destinations in the top 25 were: #6 Australia (11,140, up 1%), #7 Germany (8,330, up 1%), #8 Mexico (7,320, down 26%), #9 Ireland (6,858, down less than 1%), #10 Costa Rica (6,363, up 4%), #11 Japan (5,784, up 1%), #12 Argentina (4,705, up 15%), #13 South Africa (4,160, up 12%), #14 Czech Republic (3,664, up 7%), #15 Greece (3,616, down 6%), #16 Chile (3,503, up 28%), #17 Ecuador (2,859,up 2%), #18 Austria (2,836, down 16%), #19 Brazil (2,777 up 2%), #20 New Zealand (2,769 up 5%), #21 India (2,690, down 15%)  #22 Netherlands (2,318, up 14%), #23 Denmark (2,244, up 21%), #24 Peru (2,163, up 32%) and #25 South Korea (2,062, up 29%).

New York University remained the leading sending institution, reporting that it gave academic credit for study abroad to 3,524 of its students. It was followed by Michigan State University (2,610), University of California – Los Angeles (2,371), University of Washington (2,349), University of Southern California (2,348), University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (2,347), University of Texas – Austin (2,322), University of Wisconsin – Madison (2,230), Penn State – University Park (2,181), and University of Michigan - Ann Arbor (2,116). Open Doors 2010 reports that 52 U.S. campuses, primarily large research institutions, awarded academic credit for study abroad last year to 1,000 or more of their students.

According to Open Doors 2010, the leading fields of study for Americans studying abroad are the social sciences (21% of those studying abroad), business and management (20%), humanities (12%), fine or applied arts (7%), physical/life sciences (7%), foreign languages (6%), health professions (5%), education (4%), engineering (3%), math/computer science (2%) and agriculture (1%).

The study abroad data in Open Doors 2010 reflect study conducted abroad in academic year 2008/09 (including summer 2009). Campus administrators responding to the Open Doors  survey provide data on the number of study abroad students to whom they have awarded credit after completion of study abroad, so the data provided in academic year 2009/10 was for study abroad in 2008/09 and is the most recent available.

About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education, founded in 1919, is the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. IIE has a network of 20 offices worldwide and over 1,000 college and university members. In collaboration with governments, corporations, private foundations, and other sponsors, IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, professionals and trainees from all sectors. These programs include the Fulbright and Humphrey Fellowships and the Gilman Scholarships administered for the U.S. Department of State, and the Boren Scholarships and Fellowships and The Language Flagship administered for the National Security Education Program. IIE programs engage more than 20,000 participants each year, including more than 7,000 from the Middle East and North Africa region.

The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since 1919, and with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s. The census is based on a survey of approximately 3,000 accredited U.S. institutions. Open Doors also reports on surveys on international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad (since 1985). A full press kit and further details on the Open Doors 2010 surveys and their findings can be accessed on, and the full 120 page report can be ordered for $64.95 from IIE Books at