Carmen Neghina

Upcoming source countries for American colleges and universities


When recruiting international students in the U.S., most universities attract students from the top two countries sending students to American campuses: China and India, which currently make up almost half of all international students currently pursuing a degree in the U.S. However, what is usually important to both American students as well as international ones is campus diversity , which means universities also need to work to broaden their efforts and increase the number of nationalities represented on their campus.

With emerging countries now accounting for almost three fifths of the world’s GDP and the spending power of emerging economies on the rise, studying abroad is no longer a dream but a real possibility for many young adults around the world.  However, with enrolments from countries such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Brazil or Hong Kong decreasing this year, some American universities are left with the question: which countries to focus on next? To help out, from our database of 30 million prospective students, we created a list of countries showing a higher interest in studying in the U.S. this year compared to last year. The list includes some countries that American colleges might have brushed over in the past, but that are showing an increased interest in an American education.


Last year Nigerian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $378 million to the U.S. economy. Compared to last year, there are 9.7% more Nigerian students in the U.S. this year alone, bringing the number up to 11,710 students. This growth is not showing signs of slowing down for the 2017 intake, especially since Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with over 186 million people, of which over 60% are under the age of 24. Despite efforts from the government to increase the number of university seats available, there is a huge unmet demand for higher education opportunities which is driving Nigerian students to explore international study options. Based on our data, Nigerian students are showing a higher degree of interest in programmes in Business & Management (e.g. Human Resource Management, Supply Chain Management), as well as Engineering & Technology (e.g. Civil Engineering, or Electrical or Mechanical Engineering) and Medicine & Health (e.g. Public Health, Nursing or Pharmacy studies) and can also be great candidates for Computer Sciences & IT degrees such as Computer Science, or Information Technology.


With over 22,000 Vietnamese students currently enrolled at U.S. colleges, the country will remain a strong source market for American colleges and universities. The country is experiencing an economic growth rate of 6.7% over 2015/16 – comparable with China’s, which means its citizens are moving steadily into the middle and upper classes. With the median age in the country at just 28.5, there is no shortage of young adults in Vietnam, who will soon be looking for international degrees. Ninety percent of outbound Vietnamese students are already self-funded, so tuition fees are not a deterrent for future Vietnamese students. What are Vietnamese students interested in pursuing at American colleges and universities? Business and Management degrees are top of the list, especially in Business Administration, but also Supply Chain Management or Marketing. Vietnamese students are also interested in International development degrees, Pharmacy studies, and of course Hospitality Management.


While Ghana only had 3,049 students attending U.S. universities last year, the country is quickly becoming an emerging sending market in sub-Saharan Africa. With the economy expected to pick up in the coming year, the spending power of its citizens will also increase. Furthermore, Ghana has a higher education skill problem, currently focusing on humanities degrees, while under-catering to scientists, engineers and technologists. Ghanaian prospective students looking to go abroad are therefore looking for American degrees in Business & Management (e.g. Management, Organisation & Leadership, Business Administration or Finance and Accounting), but also Medicine degrees in Public Health, Health Sciences, or Nursing, and Social Sciences degrees in Economics, International relations and International Development.


As of 2017, Russia’s government encourages Russian students to further their education abroad and via the Global Education Program scheme, the country would support 100,000 Russian citizens over a period of ten years, especially for Master’s and PhD degrees in Engineering, basic sciences, Medicine, and Education. The programme covers the students’ tuition costs and living expenses of up to $48,000 per year. On our platforms, Russian students looking at American degrees are particularly attracted to disciplines such as Mechanical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Material Sciences, Physics or Neuroscience, so they are a great addition to STEM programmes.


The Turkish higher education system has experiences a lot of uncertainty over the past years, which has lead Turkish students to consider more international study options. In the 2016/17 academic year, 10,586 students from Turkey were studying in the United States (down 1.0% from the previous year). While the change is negative, it is a rather small one, and Turkey will continue to be a source of international students for American colleges and universities. Turkish students are primarily interested in Business & Management degrees such as Management, or Business Administration, but also Engineering & Technology degrees such as Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering but also General Engineering degrees. Some Turkish students are also interested in Social Sciences programmes including Psychology, Economics or International Relations.


While Canada is not known for sending a high number of students abroad, more than half of the Canadian students going abroad choose to study in the U.S.  While Canada has not seen a large increase in the number of students it is sending to the U.S. over the last year, Canadian students still represent the fifth largest group of international students in the country, with 27,065 reported by the latest Open Doors report. According to our data, unlike students from African or Asian countries, Canadian students are mostly interested in Social Sciences or Medicine & Health studies as opposed to Engineering & Technology degrees, and showing a very high interest on Psychology degrees in particular, as well as International Relations and Terrorism & Security studies. Health Sciences and Public Health degrees are also attracting Canadian students to American universities.


In 2015/16 there were approximately 6,141 Pakistani students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. While the country doesn’t make it to the top 25 countries of origin for international students, it continues to have a high interest in sending students to the U.S. Pakistan is one of the emerging economies with large youthful populations in Southeast & Central Asia. For Pakistani prospective students, interesting degrees include those in Engineering & Technology, especially in the fields of Electrical or Mechanical Engineering, but also Computer Sciences & IT, including among the obvious choices also Data Science & Business Intelligence, or Business Information Systems.


Bangladesh is the 25th leading place of origin for students coming to the United States and last year contributed $249 million to the U.S. economy. Already, 9.7% more Bangladeshi students chose to study in the U.S. in 2016/17 compared to the previous year. With the country experiencing a strong middle-class growth, its demand for international education will continue to rise. Bangladeshi students are primarily interested in business degrees such as Management, International Business, or Accounting, but also Engineering degrees such as Electrical & Mechanical Engineering, as well as Civic Engineering or Energy & Power Engineering degrees. Bangladeshi students also show high interests in Computer Sciences & IT degrees, but also Public Health or Pharmacy studies. 


If you have more questions about which source countries might be interesting for your institute, our experts are always happy to help and advise.

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