Last year, 974,906 international students were studying in the U.S., according to the most recent Open Doors report released today.

Last year, 974,906 international students were studying in the U.S., according to the most recent Open Doors report released today. Not only is that an impressively large number of international students – more than double that of the UK – but it’s also the largest growth rate the U.S. has seen in 35 years.

Several media outlets have covered the story – Douglas Belkin wrote about it in the Wall Street Journal and Karin Fischer of The Chronicle already wrote two articles (here and here). But we wanted a way to look at overall trends as well as look at more detailed data by country, so we created a few interactive visualizations and published them here to give you the power to do the same! We also wanted to know which countries were driving this growth, so we went region by region to find the five trends that are most impactful to international student growth in the U.S

Check out some of the trends yourself using our interactive map below.  Or, click on any of the visuals within the post to interact with the data.

Note: Interactive Tableau Visualization Can Be Viewed on Desktop Version of Blog


(1) Record number of international students and record growth rates

Not since 1978-79 has the growth in international students been this high. Non-degree volumes grew the most at 17.8% over last year. Undergraduate and postgraduate volumes showed strong growth as well, with 7.6% and 9.8% growth respectively.

China is overwhelmingly the number one source country. The number of Chinese in the U.S. grew by 11% and total just over 300,000, nearly two and a half times larger than India, the second largest nationality.  Today Chinese students account for 31% of all international students in the U.S.


(2) India bounces back

After five straight years of declining undergraduate volumes from India, the number of undergraduate Indian students increased by 30% over last year, totaling 16,521 students. Even more impressive was the 39% increase in postgraduate students from India. With more than 85,000 students, postgraduate students from India account for the vast majority – 84% – of all degree-seeking students from India.

The graph below shows student volumes from 2001 to 2015, and the first noteworthy data point is that after four years of steep declines in postgraduate volumes, there was a huge spike over the last two years. The dip and subsequent spike could be a combination of compounding factors: More proactive recruitment from U.S. universities than ever before; more streamlined U.S. visa process than in previous years; and as the New York Times pointed out last week, Indians have a disproportionate likelihood relative to other countries to work in the U.S. after graduation.


(3) Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region showing strong growth rates, led by Saudi Arabia

Since 2006, the number of students from Saudi Arabia has skyrocketed. In 2006, only 16% of students from the MENA region were from Saudi Arabia, compared to 59% in 2016. Fully funded by the King Abdullah Scholarship, the number of Saudi students has grown by 10% over the last year, which is actually a slow down after several years of rapid growth, particularly for non-degree and undergraduate students.


(4) Brazil shows highest growth rates of any country in the world at 78%

Backed by The Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, non-degree students grew by an incredible 174% over 2014 numbers. Undergraduate and postgraduate students also grew by a very impressive 34%. With nearly 22,000 students (not including OPT), Brazil surpassed Mexico with the largest number of students in the U.S. from a Central or South American country.


(5) 20% growth from Nigeria

With more than 9,000 students, Nigeria sends by far the largest volume of students from the Sub-Saharan African region. Ghana is a distant second with less than a third the volume of Nigeria. Overall the African region experienced solid growth of 8%.