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IIE Open Doors Report 2010/2011: What are the Latest Trends in Study Abroad and International Education?

On Monday, the Institute for International Education (IIE) released the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, an annual statistical survey reporting trends on the number of international students studying in the United States and the number of U.S. students studying abroad.

According to the report, in the 2010/11 academic year, 273,996 out of the more than 20 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education studied abroad for academic credit—an increase of 1.3 percent over the previous year.

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 6 percent to 764,495—a record high. The growth is largely driven by strong increases in the number of students from China, particularly at the undergraduate level. Chinese student enrollments increased by 23 percent in total and by 31 percent at the undergraduate level. Large increases in undergraduate students from Saudi Arabia, funded by Saudi government scholarships, also help explain why international undergraduates studying in the United States now outnumber international graduate students, for the first time in 12 years.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

U.S. Student Majors

  • Social Science represents the greatest number of student majors at 22.9 percent.
  • Business/Management holds the second spot but decreased slightly to 20.5 percent.
  • Humanities majors remain in the third spot at 11.3 percent.
  • Although their numbers are small compared to other majors, both the health professions and math and computer science majors increased by double digits, to 14.2 percent and 21.5 percent respectively.


  • Open Doors 2012 reports that the United Kingdom remains the leading destination for American students, followed by Italy, Spain, France and China‚Äîwhich remained the fifth largest host destination for the fifth year.
  • Interestingly, 14 of the top 25 destinations are now outside Europe.
  • Multiple country travel programs, such as Semester at Sea, increased to 6.8 percent.

Program Duration

  • Short-term programs (summer or 8 weeks or fewer) increased by 1.5 percent to 58.1 percent.
  • Mid-term participation (one semester) decreased by 1.4 percent to 38 percent.
  • Long-term (full year) was unchanged at 3.9 percent.

Reasons for the Small Increase in U.S. Students Studying Abroad

  • Poor economy
  • Student programs in Mexico have plummeted by 41.8 percent since 2009/10.
  • Earthquakes and tsunamis contributed to a 33 percent decrease in Japan and a 6.8 percent decrease in New Zealand.
  • Economic unrest in Greece caused numbers to drop by 7.4 percent.

For more information, please see

  • Life on Land

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