Guest post from Parke Muth: recent shifts in Asia

parke-muthAfter some 28 years at a highly selective research university, Parke Muth now consults with people around the globe about admissions and higher education. Just last month, the Soros Foundation dispatched Parke to Central Asia to talk with students all over Kyrgyzstan about U.S. educational opportunities. In his guest entry below, he shares some of his latest thoughts on recent shifts in Asia.

As a former Associate Dean of Admissions (International), I would venture to say that the education landscape has changed more dramatically in the last several years than at any time in history. And those who wish to keep up need to monitor trends and issues that affect students, families, secondary schools and colleges and universities – especially in China and India.

If what I have just written sounds like hyperbole, it isn’t. Not only does publically available data support my contention, but via, a question-answer website, my posts have been viewed some 1,719,682 times, and more than 2/3 of the users are from Asia, particularly India.

First the publically available data, which shows an abrupt decline in graduate and undergraduate student mobility to the U.S. from China and an accompanying increase in Indian undergraduate students coming to the U.S.

When statistics were released last year detailing the number of international students, by country, that had chosen to apply and then enroll in U.S. colleges and universities, some were skeptical. At the time, The Chronicle’s Andy Thompson even wrote:

For the first time since the council’s [referring to the Council of Graduate Schools] reports began, in 2004, first-time enrollment by Chinese students in graduate programs at American universities actually dropped this year.


The writing has been on the wall for more than a year. In April 2013, the council reported that Chinese applications to American graduate schools fell 5 percent after seven consecutive years of double-digit growth. The drop was so unexpected that the council’s president at the time, Debra W. Stewart, didn’t believe it at first. The possibility that the dip was an aberration was proved unlikely this year, when the council reported that applications from China fell again.

Andy goes on to note that even with the drop in graduate applications, overall international enrollment continued to increase (by some 8%) mostly due to surges in graduate and undergraduate mobility from India to the U.S. (increasing 40% the previous year and 27% for the year in question).

For those of us like myself, who follow developments in Asia closely, the drop in Chinese student enrollment isn’t a surprise. A number of people have noted how China’s universities are opening up state-of-the-art labs, securing funding for research and hiring top Ph.Ds. with strong backed by the government, see here and also my own interview with The Chronicle’s Karin Fischer here.

Recognizing the slowing student mobility trends from China, U.S. colleges and universities are scrambling to diversify their international student recruitment strategy and India is and should be the place to go.

The 67% application growth rate of students over the last 2 years is a signal that India may have arrived. India now makes up 12% of the total international student cohort studying in the U.S., still behind China (32%) but ahead of Korea (8%) and others. To put this in terms of matriculated students, over the 2013/14 academic year 102,673 students from India (up 6.1% from the previous year).

Turning to qualitative, I maintain an active dialog on the website, where my interactions with students and families, particularly from India (some 8 million users), reinforce the growing trend of, interest in applying to, and enrolling in, our institutions. Read more about my Quora engagement here.

What do these trends mean? First of all, U.S. college and university leaders should remember that the world changes. They need to visit schools and colleges. They should start gearing up for training staff on the range and scope of credentials from India.

And personally, I am encouraging leadership to consider spending far more time reading about, and on the ground in, India.

One Reply to “Guest post from Parke Muth: recent shifts in Asia”

  1. As global higher education improves and spreads, there is less need to go to a center of higher education when you can go local. How students from other countries will use the higher education institutions in the USA will change – specialty certificates, advanced degrees, advanced and specialized training, etc. and less BA degrees since they can get those closer to home. Other countries still want those with experiences and training in Western and USA institutions at some level. Some prefer those who can speak English honed in the west and who are familiar with western cultures so there is still a need for the west. How this plays out depends on how college in the west develop. Brand names still count but other countries are developing their own brands. The IPhone is still on top but now there are several other phone on top from other countries. USA colleges may still give the best overall diverse student mix on campuses and this still may be a valuable commodity in this global economy and connections

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