The number of Indian and South Korean students applying for the fall admission to US graduate programmes have fallen, while applications from China and the Middle East have surged, according to a survey released by the Council of Graduate Schools on Tuesday.
The council, which represents more than 500 higher-education institutions in the US and Canada, said foreigners' applications for 2009 graduate-school admissions rose four percent from the year before.
That compares with increases of six per cent in 2008, nine percent in 2007 and 12 per cent in 2006. Foreigners' applications to doctoral programmes rose five percent, but declined 17 per cent for master's degrees.
The council survey of US institutions, which fielded more than 400,000 applications in all, showed growth of applications from China along with the Middle East and Turkey, up 16 per cent and 20 per cent from 2008, respectively.
But applications from India and South Korea fell nine per cent and seven per cent, respectively, the survey noted, describing it as a "potentially troubling sign".
These declines follow decreases in first-time enrolment of students from these two countries in fall 2008; first-time enrolment fell two per cent for students from India and four per cent for students from South Korea.
Given the relatively large decline in applications for students from these two countries in this year's survey, it seems likely that first-time enrolment of students from India and South Korea will decline again in fall 2009.
If the trend persists, it will mean a subtle but significant change on US campuses, which have come to rely on foreign students to fill their seats, particularly in such departments as science and technology, it said.
"The global economy is really impacting students' ability to come to the United States," said council president Debra W Stewart.
"Students in India are now finding it difficult to borrow money." She cited tighter lending as another reason that doctoral programmes, which typically offer stipends and assistance, would be luring more students than master's programmes.
Collectively, students from India, China, South Korea account for about one-half of all non-US citizens on temporary visas attending US graduate schools, according to research from both CGS and the Institute of International Education.
International graduate applications dropped four percent between 2008 and 2009 at the institutions outside the largest 100. This pattern held true for applications from prospective students from China and India, and held true for prospective students applying to programmes in all broad fields except for business.