WASHINGTON: There has been a 17 percent year-on-year increase in the number of Pakistani students in the United States during 2021-22, says an official US report.

The report, released in Washington this week, notes that the United States remains the top destination for international students and the number of students from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Pakistan is on the rise!

In South Asia, Bangladesh topped the list with a 23 per cent year-over-year increase, followed by India with a 19pc increase.

Pakistan also has the largest US-funded Fulbright programme in the world, which sends 150 Pakistanis each year to US universities — 100 to earn their master’s degrees and 50 to earn PhDs.

The United States also sponsors 800 Pakistanis each year to travel on exchange programs — from high school students who spend a year at a US high school to professionals who connect with their American counterparts. As a result, Pakistan is home to the largest network of alumni of US government-funded exchange programmes in the world.

The “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” published this week, identified China and India as the largest sources of international students to the United States. During the current academic year, China sent 290,086 students, which is 30.6pc of the total number of international students in the US. Yet, it is a decline of 8.6pc, compared to the previous academic year. India, which sent 199,183 students this year — 21 percent of the total — registered a 19pc year-over-year increase. Toge­ther, China and India represent the majority (almost 52pc) of all international students in the United States.

This year’s report shows a 91pc decline in the total number of US students who studied abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year. This is apparently because since the Covid-19 pandemic, 62pc of US colleges offer virtual internships.

While the pandemic also caused a 45.6pc decline in new international students in 2020, the latest data, covering the 2021-2022 academic year, indicates that the total number of international students in the US — 948,519 — has started to recover.

This can be seen in a 3.8pc increase over the 914,095 international students in the US in 2020. Still, the number is well below the nearly 1.1 million international students reported in 2018.

Much of the recent growth is driven by an increase in the number of new international students — 261,961 – which is up 80pc over the 145,528 from 2020 but still 2.14pc below the 267,712 from 2019. Over the past decade, US colleges enrolled more students from China than from any other country. The onset of the global pandemic effectively halted travel between China and the US and political tensions further exacerbated the situation. Now, many Chinese parents feel their children are safe in the US.

The increase in Indian students is also attributed to the Biden administration’s policy of prioritising the student-visa processing in India. This includes adding more staff at US missions in India and streamlining the process, Chinese visa approvals are trending lower than in past years.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2022

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