For aspiring young Asians, studying in the United States has always been a natural choice. They cross the vast Pacific Ocean in order to earn an internationally prestigious degree and perhaps try to chase the American dream.
However, more and more students in the Asian region are making a major decision of studying near their homes.
To understand why, let’s start with Times Higher Education’s newest “World University Rankings”. Three universities in Asia were among the top 30 in this list for the first time, and several other universities entered the top 100. More and more Asian colleges and universities offer internationally recognized degrees, and these courses are usually taught in English, and tuition fees are much cheaper than studying abroad.
For students who are eager to study abroad but have limited financial resources or are unwilling to leave their families, this gives them more choices. For some people, this also means that they can avoid the political disorder in the United States led by Donald Trump. The frequent occurrence of gun violence and the president’s anti-immigrant position are also two common causes for Asian students to be wary of the United States.
“In addition to the United States and the United Kingdom, there are many options for students studying abroad,” said Stephanie Kim, assistant professor of education at Georgetown University. “This trend reflects the diversity of student mobility and the rise of new centers of higher education.”
For Nguyen Huu Duoc, 24, from Vietnam, Singapore met all of his requirements. He entered the Nanyang Technological University in 2016 to pursue a Ph.D. in electromechanical integration. Singapore “is more developed than other countries in Southeast Asia,” he said. “And it’s very close to my country. I can go back and visit my parents. They want me to go back and visit them several times a year.”
Singaporean student Leo Sylvia Han Yun chose the Tokyo Institute of Technology. She has a sister with congenital deafness which helped her choose to major in clinical biology hoping to use stem cell therapy to treat children later. “You can see the pain of suffering from the disease,” she said. “Children should not suffer such pain.”
When choosing a destination for study, she did not want to take risks. “For me personally,” she said, “security is first.” For example, two Indian IT engineers were shot in a bar in Kansas at the beginning of 2017, or shot outside YouTube headquarters on April 3 this year. Such incidents make many students hesitant.
Data on the flow of students within Asia shows that this transition began before Trump was elected president. Countries such as China and Japan are becoming more popular destinations for studying abroad. According to data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Ministry of Education, Japan, the number of students in other Asian countries studying in Japan increased by 36% from 2014 to 2016, reaching 173.303 million, while in China The number of students from other Asian countries studying abroad increased by 18% to 26.4966 million.
In addition, the fierce debate over immigration in the United States will only allow more students to think twice about studying in the United States.
The Trump administration has also stepped up its attack on the H-1B visa program – which allows US companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers.
Trump said last year that such visas “will never be used to replace Americans.”
“When American workers get a fair and just competitive environment, no one can compete with them,” Trump said. Trump’s populist rhetoric has won the favor of his hardcore voters and some of the left-wing trade union organizations, although business groups have expressed concern about this practice of rejecting international talent.
The employment prospects are full of uncertainties. Why should we bear the high cost of studying in the United States or the burden of a heavy student loan?
“In my personal case, I don’t want to take this risk,” said Kumar Siddhartha, a 24-year-old Indian graduate student who studies mechanical engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Sitharta had to do long-term research every day.
There was also a part-time job for English teachers. He also went to Tokyo and other cities to participate in job interviews. “Japan has excellent technology and other (Asian) countries have markets,” he said. “I can connect the two.”
Numerous Indian students are still eager to work in Silicon Valley, where they may follow the footsteps of Google CEO Sundar Pichai or Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Some parents mortgage their houses and loans to pay for their children’s education in the United States. But Sitharta did not want parents to take such great risk.
Regardless of whether pupils are primarily worried about gun proliferation, immigration policy, or the cost of studying, it is clear that the number of international students in US universities is declining. The decline in the 2016-2017 school year was 3.3%, the first decline in more than 10 years.
According to data from the U.S. International Education Association (IIE), which is based in New York, it is estimated that this school year has dropped by 6.9%.
Asian students are undoubtedly a key factor because they account for two-thirds of the international student population in the United States. Overall, among the 20 million U.S. College students in the United States, about 5% are international students.
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Although students like Sitharta still choose to study abroad (but not necessarily to the United States), others find attractive educational opportunities in their own countries. “More and more students stay in their own country to receive higher education and often enjoy the benefits of affordable education,” the British Council said in a February report.
“As higher quality higher education becomes more popular and available, students have more and more choices,” the association pointed out. “Therefore, the global market share of international students is gradually being dispersed and diversified.”
The British Council for Education and Education estimates that the annual increase in the number of students studying abroad will fall to 1.7% between 2015 and 2027, compared with an annual increase of 5.7% between 2000 and 2015. “It is expected that the long-term global growth in the number of students studying abroad will slow down, mainly due to the investments made by countries in higher education,” the association said.
South Korea is a good example. A survey by the National Science Foundation shows that during the current school year, the number of Korean undergraduates studying in the United States dropped by 12%, and the number of graduate students decreased by 4.9%. This continues the downward trend of the past five years.
This is partly due to the decrease in the age-appropriate population of Korean universities, but experts also said that this reflects the efforts of the government and schools in attracting students to avoid studying in the United States and staying in the country to study.
Top universities, such as Seoul’s Yonsei University and Ewha Women’s University, now have a strictly English speaking teaching department, while George Mason University and State University of New York are among the other American colleges that have set up branch schools in South Korea.
However, not all Asian countries can afford the huge investment in higher education, which means that outstanding students will still seek to study in other countries. India is an example.
India’s universities are growing in age, but there is a lack of higher education resources in the country to meet growing demand. Despite the prestigious engineering institutes such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, “the number of these elite institutions is very small and the demand for admission places far exceeds supply,” said Raja Bandali, head of research at IIE. Rajika Bhandari) said.
India is the second largest source of international students in the United States, second only to China.
According to the National Science Foundation, the number of Indian students registered in the United States in the current school year has fallen by 16%, which may reflect Trump’s concerns. However, students tend to choose destinations such as Australia and Canada instead of staying in the country. The number of registered Indian students in the Australian Department of Education and Training jumped by 23% to 534.76 million.
In Canada, there has been a steady increase in the number of Indian students in the past few years at the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia.
“I think that a large number of Indian students will want to study abroad in the next few years because the lack of quality educational resources domestically and many want to find jobs abroad,” said Philip Altbach, director of the International Center for Higher Education at Boston College. (Philip Altbach) said.
As for Chinese students, the growth rate is slowing after the number of students studying in the United States has quadrupled to over 350,000 in the past 10 years. Some experts believe that with the Chinese government spending heavily to upgrade first-rate universities and trying to build “world-class” universities, the trend of studying abroad will reverse in the future.
The current trend in Korea provides a window for us to “predict the future status of other student groups that spend a lot of time studying in the United States, such as students from China,” said Tiffany of Georgetown University. She predicts that the total number of Chinese students going to the United States to study in the United States will gradually decrease.
Translation by Philip Park