This year, universities in the US have the highest number of Indian students since 1999. Some 165,918 Indians are enrolled there now, according to data released by the Institute of International Education (IIE) along with the US department of state’s bureau of educational and cultural affairs.
The rise is partly due to Indian students choosing the US over the UK where student visa policies have tightened. Students can stay in the US longer and work following graduation, unlike in Britain.
While the growth in the number of Indians has been phenomenal in recent years—25% in 2016 over last year—China is still the most represented foreign country at American colleges. The total number of international students in the US crossed one million in 2016 for the first time, the data showed.
The number of Indian students in Britain in 2015 had dropped by over 50% from 2010-11 after that country tweaked rules. “The tightening of policies in the UK might have diverted some of the Indian students who would have studied there to the US instead,” Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice-president, research & evaluation at IIE, told the Mint newspaper. Despite demands from India, British prime minister Theresa May refused to discuss the trend during her recent visit to India. On an average, international students bring in £14 billion into the UK economy each year.
In the US, 11.6% of Indian students were studying at the undergraduate level, 61.4% were graduate students, 25.5% working under the optional practical training (OPT) program that allows students to stay in the US for a year after graduation, while the rest were doing other courses. Most studied engineering, math or computer science.
With the US preparing for a new government under Donald Trump, policies on work visas following graduation may change and that could drive decisions of prospective students. President-elect Trump is expected to introduce stringent rules for the H-1B visa that lets foreign nationals work in the US for at least six years. This is the most common category of visas applied for by Indian students after they complete OPT.