- Two–thirds of colleges intend to increase their level of global engagement over the next five years by ramping up recruitment of international students, developing additional study abroad experiences or other efforts, according to a new report from the American Council on Education.
- Almost half of respondents, 47%, said their colleges had accelerated internationalization efforts from 2016 until the pandemic’s onset. And even the health crisis didn't fully halt their progress — 21% increased their globalization efforts from 2020 to 2021, and 38% of respondents said the pandemic accelerated efforts to increase virtual global learning.
- Despite colleges prioritizing internationalization, only 28% said they had assessed the impact of their current and past efforts in the last three years.
In July 2021, the U.S. State and Education departments released a joint statement renewing their commitment to international education, saying the country cannot afford to be absent from the world stage. The announcement came as the pandemic continued to inhibit foreign travel and as higher education recovered from several years of policies hostile to international enrollment and immigration.
A third of colleges said they still saw an increase in study abroad program participation from 2016 to 2021, despite those challenges, according to the ACE report.
Between March 2021 and February 2022, researchers collected 903 responses from college presidents and senior higher education administrators about their institutions’ degree of global engagement.
When asked why they wanted internationalization, college leaders most commonly expressed the desire to prepare students for a global age, diversify student and employee bodies on campus, and attract applicants.
Colleges most actively focused their international recruitment efforts on Asian countries, with 65% of respondents saying they work to enroll students from China. That percentage dropped from 73% in 2016, though China is still the most popular country from which colleges recruit international students.
The next most commonly cited countries for international recruitment were India at 52%, Vietnam at 46% and South Korea at 42%.
Researchers also found an increased number of assistance programs available to international students.
"We started to hear that institutions were innovating and tweaking preexisting services to serve the needs of that population of international students," said Maria Claudia Soler, senior research analyst at ACE and co-author of the report. "It's showing the resiliency and creativity of a lot of institutions."
In 2021, 75% of respondents offered international students specialized orientations to their colleges or to U.S. higher education, according to the report. That's up from 69% in 2016. Likewise, 66% of colleges offered individualized academic support services to international students, up from 60% in 2016.