The Cultural Parade
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Foreign Students in U.S.

I've been traveling quite a bit, both for pleasure and to promote Rebuilding Brand America, which is also a pleasure but not as much fun as trekking through Cornwall.  Book_pile

Anyway, today I did a webcast for the American Management Association with my friend Keith Reinhard, president of Business for Diplomatic Action. (View the whole webcast at the AMA's website .)  In the Q&A period, one of the attendees took us to task for comparing the growth rate of foreign enrollments in U.S. colleges (about 9 percent over the last five years) to that in places like the U.K., France and Germany (much higher).  What we ignored, our caller said, was that the U.S. has so many more foreign students. It's much harder to grow a big number than a small number, he quite reasonably said.

I let Keith handle the question, which he did quite ably, apologizing for not using absolute numbers and skillfully segueing to the larger issue of  how anti-Americanism is of growing concern to university presidents.

But it got me thinking. So when I got home I did a little additional research.  Here's what I found out.

The U.S. attracts about 22% of all foreign students, followed by the U.K. (12%), France and Germany (each 10%).  The absolute number of foreign students in the U.S. is about 500,000; the U.K., France and Germany have about 200,000 each.  Taking the three non-U.S. countries as a whole would give them slightly more foreign students than the U.S., but their growth rate would still be dramatically higher at about 52%.

Further, the U.S. also has the largest system of higher education, with 15 million students, compared to the U.K., France and Germany, which have about 2 million students each.

So on a comparable basis, only 4% of U.S. college students come from foreign countries, whereas the percentages for the U.K., France and Germany are respectively 15%, 11% and 13%.

You can check out the data for yourself at the Atlas of Student Mobility.

As someone who worked for a company that went from 95% market share to about 35% in just 13 years, I know what can happen when your competitors are growing at dramatically higher rates than you are.  I think our original point was correct, but I'd like to know what you think.


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