NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

National Research Council (US) Committee on Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005.

Cover of Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States

Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States.

Show details

5Findings and Recommendations

In general terms, the committee believes that it is essential for the national interest of the United States that it maintain its excellence and overall leadership in science and engineering (S&E) research and education so that it can maintain its advantage in global knowledge production. Talented people constitute a critical input in such a knowledge-driven economy. The strategy of the United States has been and is to draw substantially from international human resources. However, as other nations build up their own S&E infrastructures, there is increasing competition for these talented people.

In such a world, what policies might best serve the interests of the United States and of S&E research in general? What actions can the US government and research universities take immediately to create or implement such policies?

This chapter presents the committee's findings and recommendations in response to its charge:

(1) What is known about the impact of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars on the advancement of US science, US undergraduate and graduate educational institutions, the US and other national economies, and US national security and international relations?

The total number of S&E graduate students in US institutions has grown consistently over the last several decades. The share of international graduate students has risen from 23.4 percent in 1982 to 34.5 percent in 2002 (see Table 1-1, and Figures 1-1 and 1-2). The share of temporary-resident postdoctoral scholars has increased from 37.4 percent in 1982 to 58.8 percent in 2002 (see Figure 1-3). In some fields, temporary residents make up more than half the populations of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.

Despite the growing presence of international S&E graduate students and postdoctoral scholars on US university campuses, the data gathered by different sources on their numbers and activities are difficult to compare1 (see Box 1-1 and Chapter 4) and yield only an approximate picture of their career status and contributions. The high level of participation of international scientists and engineers in US laboratories and classrooms warrants increased efforts to understand this phenomenon and to ensure that policies regarding their movement and activities are flexible to allow for rapid changes in research and technology.

Students and scholars contribute at many levels—as technicians, teachers, and researchers and in other occupations in which technical training is desirable. They have also been shown to generate economic gains by adding to the processes of industrial or business innovation.2 And there is evidence that they have made a disproportionate number of exceptional3 contributions to the S&E enterprise of the United States (see Figure 1-22), although more recent data indicates a transition may be underway.

The S&E enterprise is increasingly multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and global. Historically, science has served as a bridge between nations and a means of communication that can transcend political barriers. The exchange of students among countries is considered an element of international relations and even foreign policy.4 International students who remain in the United States after their studies often become part of networks that support knowledge transfer and economic development in the United States and the sending country. The networks are an important “pull” factor for students considering the United States as a destination for graduate and postdoctoral training. Those who return home after their studies or after some period of employment may go to work for US-owned multinational firms, continue research that adds to global knowledge, and form collaborations with US partners. Returnees who assume leadership positions at home may become strong foreign-policy and national-security assets for the United States.5

On the basis of the foregoing, the committee offers the following findings and recommendations:

Finding 1-1: International students and scholars have advanced US science and engineering (S&E), as evidenced by numbers of patents, publications, Nobel prizes, and other quantitative data.

Finding 1-2: International graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are integral to the US S&E enterprise. If the flow of these students and scholars were sharply reduced, research and academic work would suffer until an alternative source of talent could be found. There would be a fairly immediate effect in university graduate departments and laboratories and a later cumulative effect on hiring in universities, industry, and government. There is no evidence that modest, gradual changes in the flow would have an adverse effect.

Finding 1-3: Innovation is crucial to the success of the US economy. To maintain excellence in S&E research, which fuels technological innovation, the United States must be able to recruit talented people. A substantial proportion of those people—students, postdoctoral scholars, and researchers—come from other countries.

Recommendation 1-1: The United States must maintain or enhance its current quality and effectiveness in S&E. A principal objective should be to attract the best graduate students and postdoctoral scholars regardless of national origin. The United States should make every effort to encourage domestic-student interest in S&E programs and careers. A study should be undertaken to examine the best policies and programs to achieve that end.

Recommendation 1-2: The overarching goal for universities and other research institutions should be to provide the highest-quality training and career development to both domestic and international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars of truly outstanding potential. Graduate admissions are directed toward fulfilling a variety of objectives, among which the education of the next generation of researchers should have the highest priority. This educational process will include research and sometimes a teaching experience. Admissions committees should keep in mind career and employment opportunities, in academe and elsewhere, when making admissions decisions. Moreover, data concerning employment outcomes should be readily available to both students and faculty.

(2) What is the impact of the US academic system on international graduate students' and postdoctoral scholars' intellectual development, careers, and perceptions of the United States? How does it differ if they stay in the United States or return to their home countries?

International graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have trained in the United States have an opportunity to achieve careers as scientists or engineers in US universities, industries, and national laboratories.6 A decision to stay in the United States and become a citizen can be interpreted as a measure of career success, at least in relation to opportunities available in home countries. The stay rate of international doctorate scientists and engineers has increased steadily and substantially in the last decade.7 Plans to stay vary by year of doctoral-degree award, field, and country of origin (see Figure 1-19). The proportion of foreign-born doctorates remaining in the United States for at least 2 years after receiving their degrees increased from 49 percent for the 1989 cohort to 71 percent for the 2001 cohort.8 Stay rates are highest among engineering, computer-science, and physical-sciences graduates. Stay rates varied dramatically among graduate students from the top source countries: China (96 percent), India (86 percent), Taiwan (40 percent), and Korea (21 percent). Decisions to stay in the United States appear to be strongly affected by the ability to do research in the students' home countries, which is tied to such factors as unemployment rate and per capita GDP.9

Decisions to establish US citizenship similarly show time and field specificity. In most fields, the percentage of graduate students who were temporary residents at the time of their degrees and obtained US citizenship was relatively constant from 1995 to 2001; in engineering, the percentages of students obtaining citizenship show marked time sensitivity (see Figure 1-20).

There is less quantitative information about the career paths and experiences of either domestic or international postdoctoral appointees than of graduate students (see Box 1-1 and the discussion of data needs in Chapter 4). Postdoctoral work has become the norm in the physical and life sciences and is becoming more common in other fields. Most postdoctoral scholars work in academe; about 10-14 percent work in other sectors, chiefly industry and national laboratories. Stay rates have not been quantified; but among postdoctoral scholars who trained in the United States, the United States was the most attractive place to settle regardless of nationality or where the PhD was earned (see Figure 1-21).

Other, more direct measures indicate that US-trained international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars gain skills that make them competitive in the US job market. Foreign-born faculty who earned their doctoral degrees at US universities have increased from 11.7 percent in 1973 to 20.4 percent in 1999. In engineering fields, they increased from 18.6 percent to 34.7 percent in the same period.10 According to one of the few available studies,11 32 percent of all new PhDs with definite plans to work in US industry were temporary residents at the time of graduation. That is about the same as the proportion of temporary residents in the total population of new PhDs. The proportion of new PhDs going into industry who are temporary residents is highest in mathematics (43 percent), civil engineering (42 percent), electrical engineering (41 percent), mechanical engineering (40 percent), and computer science (38 percent).

On the basis of those data, the committee offers the following findings and recommendations:

Finding 2-1: The education and training provided by US institutions afford international students the opportunity to do high-quality, frontier research and to gain the experience needed to compete for employment in S&E occupations in the United States and abroad.

Finding 2-2: Many international students and scholars who come to the United States desire to and do stay after their studies and training are completed. Those who return home often maintain collaboration with scientists and engineers in the United States and take with them a better understanding of the US culture, research, and political system.

Recommendation 2-1: Universities should continue to encourage the enrollment of international students by offering fellowships and assistantships. Universities that have large international student and scholar populations should conduct surveys to evaluate existing services provided by the institutions. Universities that do not already do so should offer orientation days for international students, train teaching assistants, update Web services, and provide professional development training for administrators staffing international student and scholar offices.

Recommendation 2-2: International postdoctoral scholars make up a large and growing proportion of the US S&E workforce, but there are no systematic data on this population. A high priority should be placed on collecting and disseminating data on the demographics, working conditions, and career outcomes of scholars who earned their doctoral degrees outside the United States. When combined with current data collected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and professional societies, this should make possible a more complete picture of the US S&E workforce. Funds should be allocated for this purpose by Congress to the NSF or by nonprofit foundations to other organizations.

(3) What is known about the impact of international student enrollment on the recruitment of domestic S&E talent in the United States? What is the status of working conditions for international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars compared with their domestic counterparts?

Several researchers have suggested that large numbers of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars may have at least a mild adverse effect on domestic enrollments. As the numbers of S&E baccalaureate degrees awarded to members of underrepresented minority groups has increased, there has not been a concomitant increase in graduate-school enrollments.12 However, it is not clear whether women or underrepresented-minority students are being displaced or are choosing other career paths. An empirical study of admissions to graduate schools showed in the aggregate a substantially higher rate of acceptance of US citizens over foreign applicants, a modestly higher rate of acceptance of women than of men in three of the fields studied, and a substantially higher rate of acceptance of members of underrepresented minority groups over other US citizens in all five fields studied.13

More recent studies also find no evidence of displacement of women and members of underrepresented minority groups in the graduate admissions process. For example, one study found no evidence of displacement but marked effects on educational outcomes, describing a negative correlation between the enrollment of temporary residents and US citizens in graduate programs. The most elite institutions saw the largest increases in temporary-resident enrollment and the steepest drops in enrollment of US citizens.14 Those effects were statistically significant for white males, but not for women or members of underrepresented minority groups. It is not clear whether white males were deterred from enrolling by international students or chose other career paths for different reasons. For example, some may have been drawn to business careers during the and financial-services boom or to other high-paying professions throughout the 1990s, many of which did not require graduate training.

Other evidence suggests that there is no displacement of US citizens from graduate programs by temporary residents. The number of PhDs granted to undergraduates from US institutions changed little while the number of non-US bachelor's degree recipients obtaining US doctorates rose sharply. Thus, a substantial change in proportion was observed, but it was caused mostly by the expansion of PhD programs; a majority of the new slots were taken by students who had earned their first university degrees outside the United States.15 Another study calculated that an increase of one full-time international student in an S&E graduate department is not associated with displacement of US natives or members of underrepresented minorities.16

A study examining possible displacement of domestic scientists and engineers from S&E describes the importance of several other factors. First, the displacement of native-born scientists and engineers occurs mostly from “temporary,” not “permanent,” jobs in academe. Thus, the US-born are losing academic positions that are less valued rather than highly valued. Second, that result, with the finding that displacement is largest for those in mathematics and computer science, suggests that US citizens may have been pulled and not pushed from the academic sector, at least in some fields. Those US-born scientists and engineers appear to be seeking better opportunities and higher-paying positions elsewhere in the economy.17

Postdoctoral work has become the norm in the physical and life sciences and is becoming more common in other fields (see Figure 1-8). Little is known about the educational background, motivations, or career paths of either domestic or foreign-born postdoctoral scholars.

Citizenship status does not seem to affect level of satisfaction with training experience (see Figure 1-11). There is a tendency for more temporary residents than US citizens to feel that their postdoctoral positions were preparing them for independent research positions (see Figure 1-12).

Another measure of working conditions is compensation. In 2002, 50.2 percent of international graduate students were supported by research assistantships (RAs); 18.3 percent were fellows or trainees, whose positions usually carry a higher stipend than RAs; and 27.7 percent of domestic graduate students were RAs and 29.7 percent were fellows or trainees. Similar proportions of domestic and international students were supported by teaching assistantships (see Figure 1-14). Data on support mechanisms for postdoctoral scholars are not available by citizenship (see Figure 1-15 and 1-16), but there is a significant difference in annual postdoctoral stipends, and temporary residents earned less than citizens (see Figure 1-13). That may be attributable largely to the different funding opportunities for temporary residents in that most federal training grants and fellowships are citizenship-restricted.

On the basis of those data, the committee offers the following findings and recommendation:

Finding 3-1: Recruiting domestic S&E talent depends heavily on students' perceptions of the S&E careers that await them. Those perceptions can be solidified early in the educational process, before students graduate from high school. The desirability of a career in S&E is determined largely by the prospect of attractive employment opportunities in the field and, to a lesser extent by potential remuneration. Some aspects of the graduate education and training process can also influence students' decisions to enter S&E fields. The “pull factors” include time to degree; availability of fellowships, research assistantships, or teaching assistantship funding; and whether a long postdoctoral appointment is required after completion of the PhD. The evidence that large international graduate-student enrollment may reduce enrollment of domestic students is sparse and contradictory but suggests that direct displacement effects are small compared with pull factors.

Finding 3-2: There are substantial differences among S&E fields in training and career patterns. For example, in engineering, a bachelor's or master's degree is sufficient to begin a professional career; in the life sciences, doctorates customarily spend over 4 years as postdoctoral scholars before entering the workforce. In the physical sciences18and engineering, most students obtain careers in industry; in the life sciences, most work toward positions in academe. Such field-specific variations are not reflected in aggregate data.

Finding 3-3: International and domestic academic postdoctoral scholars express similar satisfaction with their training experience. But access to funding sources and employment opportunities is limited by residence status. There are variable discrepancies in stipends that favor domestic postdoctoral scholars in all fields.

Finding 3-4: Multinational corporations (MNCs) hire international PhDs in proportions similar to the output of university graduate and postdoctoral programs for their US research laboratories and often hire US-trained PhDs for their nondomestic laboratories. The proportion of international researchers in several large MNCs is around 30-50 percent. MNCs appreciate international diversity in their research staff and pay foreign-born and domestic researchers the same salaries, which are based on degree, school, and benchmarks in the industry.

Recommendation 3-1: So that students can make informed decisions about advanced training in S&E, career outcomes of recent graduates should be communicated to prospective students by university departments and faculty advisers. In addition to intensive focused research work, graduate education should encompass career preparation and the development of varied skills for successful careers in S&E. Universities should develop graduate education and postdoctoral programs that prepare S&E students and scholars for the diversity of jobs they will encounter. When it is appropriate, funding agencies should provide career-transition grants for early-career researchers. The committee encourages discussion among universities, industry, and funding agencies to explore how to expand graduate fellowships and encourage women and members of underrepresented minorities to consider education and training in S&E.

(4) What are the impacts of various policies that reshape or reduce the flow of international students and postdoctoral scholars (for example, visas, immigration rules, and working conditions)?

There is increasing international competition to recruit the best S&E students and scholars. With the increasing competition, there is keen interest in why students choose to study abroad and how students choose destinations and institutions.19 The decision of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to go abroad for study is a combination of “push” and “pull” factors.20 Under conditions of increasing capacity among traditional sending countries, the ability of the United States to continue to attract the best students will increasingly depend on its pull factors,21 including quality, job opportunities, convenience, and perception of being a welcoming place.

Layered on top of the globalization of competition for students is the decline in international students taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) graduate-school entrance examinations (see Figure 1-7). One interpretation of the decline is that fewer international students want to study in the United States. However, the decline in TOEFL volumes is more likely to have been influenced by increasing competition from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).22 GRE volumes started to decrease in Asia after antifraud measures were taken in 2000. The number of students taking the GRE multiple times has decreased, and it is likely that some less-qualified students are now discouraged from taking the examination.23 In addition, Australia, Canada, and other countries competing with the United States for graduate students do not require applicants to take the GRE.24

On top of that are the recent increases in security screening by US immigration officials. The United States, like other nations, must struggle to balance the need to secure technical information with the need to maintain the openness of scholarship on which its culture, economy, and security depend. The free flow of knowledge and people sometimes conflicts with the national interests of states. Repercussions that followed the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, included security-related changes in federal visa and immigration policy. The changes were intended to restrict the illegal movements of an extremely small population, but they have had a substantial effect on large numbers of foreign-born graduate students and postdoctoral scholars already in the United States or contemplating a period of study here. Pre-existing immigration-related policies relevant to international student flows are international reciprocity agreements, deemed-export policies, and specific acts that grant special or immigrant status to groups of students or high-skill workers, for example, the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992 and the policies enacted shortly after the end of the Cold War to allow scientists and engineers of the former Soviet Union to enter the United States.

Together, increased competition, decreased test-taking, increased security screening, and a soft economy have had a dramatic impact on graduate-student applications, particularly from 2001 to 2004.25 Declines in admissions and first-time enrollments were less substantial (see Box 1-2).26 What is the meaning of the declining enrollment numbers? Several interpretations seem plausible. First, the decline began from an enrollment peak that followed the atypical economic conditions of the late 1990s, including the boom and the doubling of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget.27 The current decline could be interpreted as a return from an unsustainable peak to a point on a long-term curve that had been rising steadily for many years. A second possible interpretation is that a three-year decline is more accurately seen as a trend rather than a statistical blip. In either case, there is no evidence that the quality of graduate students or the staffing level of laboratories has suffered. S&E populations have always fluctuated, and in ways that are seldom predicted.

Throughout its history, the United States has used immigration policy to manage the flow of visitors. Since the F and J visa classes were established in 1952, it has been possible to measure the impact of policies on students and exchange scholars. However, because those visa classes include students from primary to graduate school, as well as postdoctoral scholars and many other nonuniversity exchange visitors, and because graduate students and postdoctoral scholars can enter the United States with other visa classes, including the H-1b, it is not practical to try to use immigration statistics to determine anything useful about any particular level of student or trainee. That is evident in comparing enrollment patterns and visa issuance rates: if one looks only at issuance rates, the primary sending countries for postdoctoral scholars appear to be European; but enrollment numbers indicate that Asian countries send more scholars by far. There are also policy implications: restrictions applied to particular visa classes may be having unintended effects because a class includes a heterogeneous group of people.

Improvement of data on immigration and emigration has been championed for at least 20 years.28 Coupling data inadequacies for immigration with those for the US workforce, particularly for postdoctoral scholars, and our understanding of the composition of the S&E workforce is even more limited. Moreover, there is a lack of analysis of trends and relationships among student flows, enrollments, economic cycles, and other factors. Congress and administrative agencies need better data and more analysis to craft better policies.

On the basis of the foregoing, the committee offers the following findings and recommendations:

Finding 4-1: The flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars is affected by national policies. Among them, changes in visa and immigration policies since 9-11 have adversely affected every stage of the visa-application process for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in S&E. Interagency cooperation and a willingness to work with members of the S&E community have helped to reduce some bottlenecks and improve procedures, but unfavorable perceptions remain and additional steps need to be taken. Some policies contribute to anxieties among international students and scholars and a perception that the United States does not welcome them. International sentiment regarding the US visa and immigration processes is a lingering problem for the recruitment of international students and scholars. Those environmental factors discourage international students and scholars from applying to US colleges and universities and discourage colleagues who would otherwise send their students to the United States. Recent improvements in processing time and duration of Visas Mantis clearances are a positive step, but extending visa validity periods and Mantis clearances commensurate with a period of study has not been uniform across nationalities.

Finding 4-2: Large drops in international applications in the 3 years after 9-11 caused considerable concern in the university community, but their effects on numbers of first-time enrollments of international S&E graduate students were modest.

Finding 4-3: The flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars is affected by institutional policies. Universities have been responsive to the needs of international students. Many have offices dedicated to international students, and several offer orientation sessions before the start of the school year and teaching-assistant training and English-language courses. Steps taken by educational and exchange institutions have mitigated some of the adverse effects of visa and immigration policies by creating resources for international applicants and establishing earlier acceptance notifications to allow more time for visa-processing. Some universities have begun to reimburse admitted graduate students the $100 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

Finding 4-4: Exogenous factors, many of which predate 9-11, affect the flows of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Other countries are expanding their technological and educational capacities and creating more opportunities for participation by international students. The natural expansion of education in the rest of the world increases the potential supply of talent for the United States and at the same time increases competition for the best graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Economic conditions—including availability of university-sponsored financial support and employment opportunities—can affect student mobility, as can geopolitical events, such as war and political instability.

Finding 4-5: The inadequacy of data on international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars limits our understanding of the composition of the S&E workforce and of how it might respond to economic or political changes. Moreover, the lack of timeliness and coverage of data on US-trained and internationally trained scientists and engineers hinders our examination of trends and relationships among student flows, enrollments, economic cycles, and other factors. Congress and administrative agencies need better data and more analysis to craft better policies.

Recommendation 4-1: The United States needs a new system of data collection to track student and postdoctoral flows so that it can understand the dynamics and effects of shifting sources of talent. Funds should be provided to the NSF or other institutions to collaborate internationally to create a data system similar to a balance-of-trade account to track degree production, student and postdoctoral movement between countries, push-pull factors affecting student choice at all degree levels, and employment outcomes.

Recommendation 4-2: If the United States is to maintain overall leadership in S&E, visa and immigration policies should provide clear procedures that do not unnecessarily hinder the flow of international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. New regulations should be carefully considered in light of national-security considerations and potential unintended consequences. Research institutions and the Departments of State (DOS) and Homeland Security (DHS) should continue their discussion on these matters.

a. Visa Duration: Recent policies to extend the duration of Visas Mantis clearances for some students and scholars is a positive step. We strongly encourage DOS and DHS to continue working toward applying those provisions to students and scholars from all countries.

b. Travel for Scientific Meetings: Means should be found to allow international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are attending or appointed at US institutions to attend scientific meetings that are outside the United States without being seriously delayed in reentering the United States to complete their studies and training.

c. Technology Alert List: This list, which is used to manage the Visas Mantis program, should be reviewed regularly by scientists and engineers outside government. Scientifically trained personnel should be involved in the security-review process.

d. Visa Categories: New nonimmigrant-visa categories should be created for doctoral-level graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, whether they are coming to the United States for formal educational or training programs or for short-term research collaborations or scientific meetings. The categories should be exempted from the 214b provision whereby applicants must show that they have a residence in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning. In addition to providing a better mechanism for embassy and consular officials to track student and scholar visa applicants, the categories would provide a means for collecting clear data on numbers and trends of graduatestudent and postdoctoral-scholar visa applications.

e. Reciprocity Agreements: Multiple-entry and multiple-year student visas should have high priority in reciprocity negotiations.

f. Change of Status: If the United States wants to retain the best students, procedures for change of status should be clarified and streamlined.

Maintaining and strengthening the S&E enterprise of the United States, particularly by attracting the best domestic and international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, will require the cooperation of the government, universities, and industry to agree on an appropriate balance between openness, mobility, and economic and national security. Making the choices will not be easy, but the recommendations provided here define priorities, data, and analyses needed to determine effective policy strategies and substantive steps that will advance the vitality of US research and attract the talented people necessary to perform it.



A. Gallup-Black. 2004. “International student mobility: Project Atlas.” International Higher Education 37:10-11.


G. Chelleraj, Keith E. Maskus, and A. Mattoo. 2004. The Contribution of Skilled Immigration and International Graduate Students to US Innovation, (Working Paper Number 04-10). Boulder, CO: University of Colorado. The authors conclude, “Our results strongly favor the view that foreign graduate students and immigrants under technical visas are significant inputs into developing new technologies in the American economy.” pp. 28-29. Also, immigration rules that permit immigration of the highly skilled, along with education subsidies, are sufficient to ensure new technology adoption, as shown by an exercise in theoretical modeling by P. Chander and S. Thangavelu. 2004. “Technology adoption, education and immigration policy,” Journal of Development Economics 75(1):79-94


Paula E. Stephan and Sharon G. Levin. 2005. “Foreign scholars in U.S. science: Contributions and costs.” In: Science and the University, eds. Ronald Ehrenberg and Paula Stephan, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press (forthcoming). The authors use six criteria to indicate “exceptional” contributions (not all contributions) in S&E: persons elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) or National Academy of Engineering (NAE), authors of citation classics, authors of hot papers, the 250 most-cited authors, authors of highly cited patents, and scientists who have played a key role in launching biotechnology firms.


The US Departments of State and Education host an annual International Education Week. At the 2004 event, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, “The professional partnerships and lifelong friendships that result from international education and exchange help build a foundation of understanding and lasting partnerships. These partnerships are important for a secure, prosperous future, not only for the United States, but also for the world as a whole.” Colin Powell, Statement, International Education Week 2004, Washington, DC, October 15, 2004.


“Foreign students yesterday, world leaders today.” Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State. Available at


N. Aslanbeigui and V. Montecinos. 1998. “Foreign students in US doctoral programs.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 12:171-82.


International student is usually taken to mean a student on a temporary visa, but figures sometimes include students on both temporary and permanent visas to compensate for the large number of Chinese students in the 1990s who became permanent residents by special legal provisions following Tiananmen Square. This issue is discussed in greater detail by Finn (see next footnote), who finds the stay rates of those on temporary and permanent visas almost the same.


Michael G. Finn. 2003. Stay Rates of Foreign Doctorate Recipients from US Universities, 2001. Oak Ridge, TN: ORISE. Although the stay rate cited in this study was defined as remaining in the United States for at least 2 years after receipt of the doctorate, Finn estimates that these rates do not fall appreciably during the first 5 years after graduation. About half the increase between the 1989 and 2001 cohorts is due to an increase in the number of PhDs awarded; the rest is from an increase in the number of new doctorate recipients deciding to stay.


David L. Johnson. 2001. Relationship Between Stay Rates of PhD Recipients on Temporary Visas and Relative Economic Conditions in Country of Origin. Oak Ridge, TN: ORISE.


National Science Board. 2004. Science and Engineering Indicators 2004 (NSB 04-2), Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation, Appendix Table 5-24. Available at


Grant Black and Paula Stephan. “The importance of foreign PhDs to US science.” In: Science and the University, eds. Ronald Ehrenberg and Paula Stephan. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press (forthcoming).


David R. Burgess. 1998. “Where will the next generation of minority biomedical scientists come from?” Cancer (Supplement) 83(8):1717-19.


Gregory Attiyeh and Richard Attiyeh. 1997. “Testing for bias in graduate school admissions.” Journal of Human Resources 32(3):524-48. The authors examined biochemistry, economics, English, mathematics, and mechanical engineering admissions at 48 leading graduate schools.


G. J. Borjas. 2004. Do Foreign Students Crowd out Native Students from Graduate Programs? (Working Paper Number 10349). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.


R. B. Freeman, E. Jin, and C. Y. Shen. 2004. Where Do New US-Trained Science-Engineering PhDs Come From? (Working Paper Number 10605). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.


Mark Regets. 2001. Research and Policy Issues in High-Skilled International Migration, Bonn: IZA. Drawn from data from the NSF Graduate Student Survey, 1982-1995.


Sharon G. Levin, Grant C. Black, Anne E. Winkler, and Paula E. Stephan. 2004. Differential Employment Patterns for Citizens and Non-Citizens in Science and Engineering in the United States: Minting and Competitive Effects (Working Paper). St. Louis, MO: University of Missouri.


The physical sciences include physics, chemistry, earth sciences, mathematics, and computer science. In each of those subfields, there can be divergent career interests among graduates; but taken as a whole, a position in the industrial sector is the predominant career destination among recent graduates, whether or not it was the desired career at PhD inception or completion.


Anthony Bohm and D. P. Chaudhri. 2000. Securing Australia's Future: An Analysis of the International Education Markets in India. Sydney: IDP Education Australia Limited, pp. 150-52. This study reports that although the United States is “an established brand, providing an excellent education across a wide array of characteristics, it performs poorly in affordability and provision of a tolerant and safe environment.”


Tim Mazzarol and Geoffrey N. Soutar. 2001. Push-pull Factors in Influencing International Student Destination Choice (Discussion Paper 0105). Crawley, WA: Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation, University of Western Australia; Todd Davis. 2003. Atlas of Student Mobility. New York: Institute for International Education. Similar factors are correlated with stay rates of international graduate students (see D. L. Johnson. 2001. Relationship Between Stay Rates of PhD Recipients on Temporary Visas and Relative Economic Conditions in Country of Origin. Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education) and postdoctoral scholars (see Jurgen Enders and Alexis-Michel Mugabushaka. 2004. Wissenshaft und Karriere: Ehrfahrungen und Werdegange ehemahleiger Stipendiaten der DFG. Bonn: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft).


Mazzarol and Souter. 2001. Ibid, p. 17.


The IELTS is owned, developed, and delivered through the partnership of the British Council, IDP Education Australia, ILTS Australia, and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations.


David L. Wheeler. 2002. “Testing services says GRE scores from China, South Korea, and Taiwan are suspect.” The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 16).


David Payne, executive director, GRE Program, Educational Testing Service, presentation to committee, July 19, 2004.


“Survey details impact of restrictive government actions on flow of international scholars and students.” NAFSA (Association of International Educators), AAU (Association of American Universities), NASULGC (National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges), and CGS. November 14, 2003.


Heath Brown. 2004. Council of Graduate Schools Finds Decline in New International Graduate Student Enrollment for the Third Consecutive Year. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools (November 4); Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, New York: Institute for International Education.; Michael Neuschatz and Patrick J. Mulvey. 2003. Physics Students from Abroad in the Post-9/11 Era (Publication No. R-437) College Park, MD: American Institute of Physics. Available at


One review of the NIH budget concluded that its dramatic growth did not result in an increase in new US doctorates or in the number of US citizens in postdoctoral appointments even while the number of international postdoctoral scholars was rising. Howard H. Garrison, Susan A. Gerbi, and Paul W. Kincade. 2003. “In an era of scientific opportunity, are they opportunities for biomedical scientists?” FASEB Journal 17:2169-2173.


National Research Council. 1985. Immigration Statistics: A Story of Neglect. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; National Research Council. 1996. Statistics on U.S. Immigration: An Assessment of Data Needs for Future Research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; National Research Council. 1999. Measuring the Science and Engineering Enterprise: Priorities for the Division of Science Resources Studies. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. This study focused on the Science Resource Statistics division of the NSF and urged sufficient funding to “continue and expand significantly its data collection and analysis.”

Copyright © 2005, National Academy of Sciences.
Bookshelf ID: NBK37571


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (1.4M)

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...