The election of Trump, whose campaign was built around hard-line positions on immigration, could prompt students to choose Australia, Canada or other countries offering English-language degree programmes over the US. This is what Philip Altbach, research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, told Times Higher Education.
Altbach said that Trump’s promise to implement “extreme vetting” of Muslims and other immigrants to the US will “deter some students from applying to US schools” and “make it more difficult” for those who do apply.
He also stressed that the UK may be in the same situation as the US as globally it is perceived as “unwelcoming to foreigners”.
Jason Lane, chair of the department of educational policy and leadership at the State University of New York Albany, said there may be many international students who are following the latest political developments and many who will choose not to study in the US, either because they think they would not obtain a visa or they do not agree with the new political profile of the country. There was a similar impact after the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, he said.
There will certainly be a lot of attention on what the Trump administration does in terms of student visas, particularly J1 visas that allow students to work, which Trump has suggested may need to be somehow revised.
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Lane added that the election may result in increased interest in international branch campuses of US and UK universities as students look for a foreign education without leaving home, as well as in universities in Australia, Canada and European Union countries where English is broadly spoken and which have aggressive internationalisation strategies.
The warnings come as the US-based Institute of International Education (IIE) published its annual Open Doors report, which showed a 7.1% increase in the number of foreign students enrolled in US universities and colleges between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
This brings the total number to 1,043,839 and is the tenth consecutive year of growth, although the rate has slowed from a 10% annual rise last year.
For the second year in a row, the largest growth came from India, at 24.9%, while China remains the top-sending country, accounting for almost one-third or 328,547 of international students in the country.
Despite the fears that Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric will deter applications from foreign students, Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s deputy vice-president of research and evaluation, said that student flows are typically affected only when there are actual shifts in policy or due to other tangible factors. International students are actually quite resilient to shifting perceptions of rhetoric, she said.
She cited the tightening up of visa-screening procedures in the US after the 9/11 attacks as an example of a policy change that led to a small drop in international students, although she added that the numbers rebounded very quickly after that.
More recently, the significant drop in the number of Indian students in the country prior to 2012-13 was very clearly tied to the strong devaluation of the Indian rupee against the dollar, she said.
Source: Times Higher Education