Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Post-Graduation Plans of International Science and Engineering Doctoral Students Attending U.S. Universities

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Post-Graduation Plans of International Science and Engineering Doctoral Students Attending U.S. Universities

Article excerpt

The Institute of International Education (IIE) reported that the number of international students in the United States increased by 8% in 2013/2014 compared to the previous year to a record high of 886,052 (IIE, 2014). According to several studies, in 2025 this number will rise to 8 million (Altbach & Bassett, 2004; Eustace, 2007; Fischer, 2009). Meanwhile, the number of international graduate students attending U.S. universities in 2014 reached 329,854 representing 37% of all international students in the country (IIE, 2014), and continued to increase through fall 2010, with all of the increase occurring in Science and Engineering (S&E) fields. For instance, about 60% of all international graduate students in the United States in 2010 were enrolled in S&E fields, while only 32% of all international students enrolled in undergraduate programs were in S&E fields (National Science Board, 2012). There is a clear trend to attract large numbers of international students for the graduate S&E programs in the United States.

As more international doctoral students flow into American universities, a marked shift in the demographic composition of the doctoral student population in S&E has also been witnessed. Foreign students on temporary visas earned high proportions of S&E doctorates and dominated in fields like engineering, physics, computer science, and economics. In 2009, they received 57% of doctorates in engineering, 54% in computer science, and 51% in physics (National Science Board, 2012). These statistics have been extremely stable; in 2011, foreign students earned 56% of doctorates in engineering, 51% in computer science, and 44% in physics (National Science Board, 2014).

As described in Allum's (2014) report based on the annual Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees, in the fall of 2013, 56.2% of all foreign graduate students were in engineering, mathematics and computer science, physical and earth sciences, or biological and agricultural sciences. Meanwhile, only 17.6% of U.S. citizen and permanent resident graduate students were enrolled in these fields. This trend has continued unabated showing that the United States receives a considerable number of international graduate students, who are preferentially enrolled in S&E programs.

The flow of scientists and engineers to the developed countries is not surprising. The United States' economic growth and its leading position in the global markets depend heavily on advancements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields (Machi, McNeill, Lips, Marshall & Carafano, 2009; National Academy of Sciences, 2006). The growing demand for scientists and engineers is a worldwide phenomenon and many developed countries that cannot meet this increased demand locally, recruit international students and foreign-born highly educated workers who are likely to bring a significant contribution to the higher education system and workplaces. Despite the magnitude of the international S&E doctoral students population, the investment that U.S. higher education institutions make in preparing them, and the potential contributions that these individuals can make to the United States, S&E doctoral students' graduate school experiences and the impact on their post- graduation plans have been understudied (Ren & Hagedorn, 2012; Mori, 2000). By gaining an understanding of these issues, American higher education institutions could proactively formulate appropriate policies and programs that would benefit international students and in long term would contribute to recruit, train, and retain talented specialists in science and engineering fields.

This paper examines the relationship between post-graduation plans and the graduate school experiences of S&E doctoral students when controlling for demographic factors (age, sex), culture-specific characteristics (race/ethnicity as a proxy for region of origin), field of study, and English language proficiency. …

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