Findings from the Open Doors International Scholars Survey show that China and India are still the leading places of origin for US international scholars, with the two countries accounting for more than 38% of all international scholars in the country.
However, there was a 26% decline in scholars from China in 2020/21, while the number of scholars from India increased by 17% over the same period.
According to the IIE’s head of research, evaluation and learning Mirka Martel, many university leaders attribute this to the easing of travel restrictions.
“While we are not yet seeing a full return to pre-pandemic totals, we are seeing a positive trend in the numbers this year,” she said.
The latest survey of 1,700 US institutions, which asks about academic staff mobility flows to the US, shows a gradual increase after the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019/20, the number of international scholars decreased by 13,055, while the following year there was a further 30% decrease.
The number fell below 100,000 in 2020/21 for the first time since the 2006/7 academic year – a total that has not yet recovered.
International scholars include postdoctoral fellows, visiting lecturers and researchers, and short-term scholars or visiting specialists.
“We saw strong growth in European countries, which also performed very well”
The remaining top five countries of origin are South Korea with 5,439 (+10.4%), Canada with 3,993 (+3.4%) and Germany with 3,389 (+40.1%).
“We’ve also seen an increase in scholars from South Korea,” Martel added.
“In addition, we saw strong growth in European countries, which also performed very well. And international scholars from Germany, Italy, France and Spain also saw a significant percentage increase.”
Brazil grew by 27.4% to 3,292, Italy by 29.% to 2,948, France by 22.3% to 2,590 and Spain by 37.5% to 2,136.
Pakistan saw a significant increase of 56.1%, sending 1,280 researchers and lecturers, as did Colombia, which grew by 45.8%, sending 1,133. A 56.3% increase among Nigerian academics saw 616 trips to the US.
During a Feb. 8 data release webinar, she also noted that the IIE will be “watching this data closely in the coming year” because China is the leading country of origin for international scientists coming to the US.
The top states to which scholars were drawn for their activities in 2021/22 were California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.
IIE Research Specialist Julie Baer was dedicated to the academic activities of international scientists. “Research has traditionally been the main activity of international scientists in the US,” she said, with three out of four scientists conducting research in the US.
About 9% were engaged in teaching activities, while 8% were engaged in a combination of research and teaching, a slight increase from the last few years.
At 79%, the majority of international scientists majored in STEM fields, which included physical and life sciences, engineering, health professions, mathematics and computer science, and agriculture. A far smaller percentage of scientists pursued activities in the social sciences and business and management.
A few years ago, the IIE began collecting data on the length of stay of scientists in the US. “Because international scientists carry out a wide range of activities, from leading research projects to participating in symposia, the length of stay can vary widely,” Baer said.
While short-term appointments have seen a “notable increase” this year from 24% to 31%, and long-term stays have remained flat over the past few years, mid-term stays remain the most popular length of stay. .
Baer emphasized the universities’ support for international scientists. “Most colleges and universities continue to prioritize communication with scientists, whether in welcoming new scientists or supporting scientists.”
She listed the provision of information on health, safety and wellbeing, along with the provision of information on travel and visa procedures and virtual support through technology, as colleges step up support efforts.
Survey data was drawn from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, a time when many students and faculty returned to face-to-face instruction on campus.
For more than seven decades, IIE has published Open Doors with the support of the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It consists of four separate surveys sent annually to approximately 1,700 US colleges.