International Student Mobility
Excellence in S&E higher education helps a country to be technologically
innovative and economically competitive (Greenspan
2000). Recognizing this, other countries are seeking to improve
their relative standing in this area. This section places data on
U.S. S&E higher education in an international comparative perspective.
It presents available data on bachelor's (first university) degrees,
including selected disaggregations by field and sex. It also compares
participation rates in S&E degrees in different countries, including
data on foreign student enrollment and degrees for selected countries.
The college-age cohort decreased in all major industrialized countries
either in the 1980s or 1990s, although for different durations and
to varying degrees (appendix
table 2-32 ).
To produce enough S&E graduates for increasingly knowledge-intensive
societies, industrialized countries have sought to enroll a higher
proportion of their citizens in higher education, train a higher
proportion in S&E, and recruit S&E students from other countries,
especially in the developing world. For example, China and India
each has more than 90 million people of college age and is a major
country of origin for foreign graduate students in the United States.
shows that by 2015, the college-age cohort in Africa will surpass
that of China.
International Degree Trends
The availability and quality of international degree data vary.
Major efforts of international statistical agencies have been under
way for more than a decade to improve collection, reporting, and
dissemination of these data.
First University Degrees in S&E Fields
In 2000, more than 7.4 million students worldwide earned a first
and about 2.8 million of the degrees were in S&E fields: more
than 1 million in engineering, almost 850,000 in social and behavioral
sciences, and almost 1 million in mathematics and natural, agricultural,
and computer sciences combined (appendix
table 2-33 ).
These worldwide totals only include countries for which data are
readily available (primarily the Asian, European, and American regions)
and are therefore an underestimation. Asian universities accounted
for almost 1.2 million of the world's S&E degrees in 2000, with
almost 480,000 degrees in engineering (figure
Students across Europe (including Eastern Europe and Russia) earned
more than 830,000 S&E degrees, and students in North America
earned more than 500,000.
Although the United States has historically been a world leader
in offering broad access to higher education, many other countries
now provide comparable access. The ratio of bachelor's degrees earned
in the United States to the population of the college-age cohort
remained relatively high at 33.8 per 100 in 2000 (appendix
table 2-33 ).
However, nine other countries also provided a college education
to at least one-third of their college-age population.
A workforce trained in NS&E is indispensable to a modern economy.
The proportion of the college-age population that earned degrees
in NS&E fields was substantially larger in more than 16 countries
in Asia and Europe than in the United States in 2000. The United
States achieved a ratio of 5.7 per 100 after several decades of
hovering between 4 and 5. Other countries/economies have recorded
bigger increases: South Korea and Taiwan increased their ratios
from just over 2 per 100 in 1975 to 11 per 100 in 200001. At the
same time, several European countries have doubled and tripled their
ratios, reaching figures between 8 and 11 per 100 (figure
In several emerging Asian countries/economies, the proportion of
first university degrees earned in S&E was higher than in the
United States. For the past 3 decades, S&E degrees have made
up about one-third of U.S. bachelor's degrees. The corresponding
figures were considerably higher for China (59 percent in 2001),
South Korea (46 percent in 2000), and Japan (66 percent in 2001)
In engineering fields, the contrast between the United States and
other relatively advanced regions becomes sharper. Compared with
Asia and Europe, the United States has a relatively low proportion
of S&E bachelor's degrees in engineering. In 2000, students
in Asia and Europe earned 4041 percent of their first university
S&E degrees in engineering. In contrast, students in the United
States earned about 15 percent of their S&E bachelor's degrees
in engineering fields (appendix
table 2-33 ).
Long-term trend data on first university S&E degrees, available
for selected countries, show strong growth in the 1990s in China
and Japan (with a leveling off in 200001) and steady growth in
South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States (figure
In the late 1990s, first university S&E degrees (of long duration)
declined in Germany.
Germany had a sharp decline in engineering degrees, from 16,000
in 1998 to 9,000 in 2001 (Grote 2000
table 2-34 ).
International Comparison of Participation
Rates by Sex
Among large Western countries for which first university degree
data are available by sex, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada,
and the United States had relatively high participation rates for
both men and women. In 2000, the ratio of female-earned first university
degrees to the female 24-year-old population was about the same
in France and the United Kingdom (41 per 100), Spain and the United
States (39 per 100), and Canada (38 per 100). Women in the United
Kingdom and France also had high participation rates in earned NS&E
bachelor's degrees. In 2000, the ratio of NS&E degrees earned
by women to the female 24-year-old population in the United Kingdom
and France was 8 per 100. In France, this rate was more than half
the rate for men. In the United States, participation rates in NS&E
degrees were 4.5 per 100 for women and 6.8 per 100 for men (appendix
table 2-35 ).
In Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, women earn first university
degrees at a rate similar to that in many European countries. However,
women have high participation rates in NS&E only in South Korea
and Taiwan. In 200001, the ratio of female-earned degrees in these
fields to the female 24-year-old population was 7.4 per 100 in South
Korea and 5.0 per 100 in Taiwan, higher than the participation rate
of women in Japan, Germany, or the United States. Among reporting
countries, women earned the highest proportion of their S&E
degrees in natural and social sciences (appendix
table 2-35 ).
International Comparison of Doctoral Degrees
in S&E Fields
The proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned outside the United
States appears to be increasing. Of the 114,000 S&E doctoral
degrees earned worldwide in 2000, 89,000 were earned outside the
United States (appendix
table 2-36 ).
shows the breakdown of S&E doctoral degrees by major region
and selected fields.
The proportion of S&E doctoral degrees earned by women is increasing
in several world regions. In 2000, women earned more than 35 percent
of S&E doctorates in several countries of Western Europe (Finland,
France, Spain, Ireland, and Italy) and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria,
Croatia, and Georgia). In the same year, women earned more than
40 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded in natural sciences in
these countries (appendix
table 2-37 ).
For most of the past 2 decades, momentum in NS&E doctoral degree
programs has been strong in the United States and some Asian and
European countries. Japan's 1993 national science policy to increase
basic research for innovation led to a doubling of university research
funding by 1997 and significant expansion of university doctoral
programs. There was even stronger growth in China, and, by 2001,
China was the largest producer of NS&E doctoral degrees in the
Asian region. However, in the late 1990s, NS&E doctoral degrees
leveled off in Germany and declined in the United States (figure
shows trends in NS&E doctoral degrees by region.
International Student Mobility
The 1990s witnessed a worldwide increase in the number of students
going abroad for higher education study to the well-established
destinations of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
However, other countries, including Japan, Canada, and Germany,
also expanded their enrollment of foreign S&E graduate students.
Foreign Enrollment in S&E in Selected
The United States shares a tradition with France and the United
Kingdom of educating large numbers of foreign students. In recent
years, universities in other countries, notably Canada, Germany,
and Japan, have also increased their number of foreign students.
Many of the United Kingdom's foreign students come from Britain's
former colonies in Asia and North America (particularly India, Ireland,
Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, and Canada).
In the 1990s, it began receiving more students from countries inside
the European Union (EU). For example, in 1994, within the 10 top
countries of origin, the number of foreign students from EU countries
and former colonies were roughly equal. By 1998, in both graduate
and undergraduate S&E programs, EU students were far more numerous
in U.K. universities than students from former colonies. The number
of students from China and Taiwan was also increasing (appendix
table 2-40 ).
With an inflow of students from a broadening number of countries
in the 1990s, the proportion of foreign students studying S&E
in the United Kingdom increased at both the graduate and undergraduate
level. Foreign undergraduate students in S&E increased from
about 9 percent to almost 12 percent from 1995 to 1999, leveled
off, and then declined in 2001. In undergraduate engineering, foreign
student enrollment rose from 16,000 in 1995 to 21,000 in 1999 (the
peak year for foreign undergraduate students), even as overall engineering
enrollment declined from 113,000 to 100,000 (appendix
table 2-40 ).
At the graduate level, foreign S&E student enrollment increased
continuously, from almost 29,000 in 1995 to 44,000 in 2001. By 2001,
foreign students in the United Kingdom represented 44 percent of
enrollment in graduate engineering programs and 35 percent in mathematics
and computer sciences (figure
Like the United Kingdom, France has a long tradition of educating
students from its former colonies, as well as from developing countries
in Africa and Latin America. In 1999, 7 of the 10 top countries
of origin of foreign doctoral degree students in France were African
(primarily Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) and Latin American (Brazil
and Mexico) (National Science Board 2002). Also like the United
Kingdom, the proportion of foreign students studying S&E fields
in France increased at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Foreign undergraduate S&E enrollment in France increased from
7 percent in 1996 to 13 percent in 2002. In the same period, foreign
graduate S&E enrollment increased from 20 to 25 percent. Foreign
graduate enrollment was higher in engineering fields, reaching 33
percent in 2002 (appendix
table 2-41 ).
Japan, Canada, and Germany are also attempting to bolster enrollment
of foreign students in S&E fields. Japan's goal of 100,000 foreign
students, first promulgated in the early 1980s, is gradually being
achieved. In 2001, almost 70,000 foreign students, mainly (more
than 95 percent) from the Asian region enrolled in Japanese universities,
and preliminary data for 2002 suggest that foreign enrollment has
reached 100,000. In 2001, foreign student enrollment was concentrated
at the undergraduate level (44,500) and in social and behavioral
sciences (46 percent of undergraduates enrolled).
Japan also enrolled about 25,000 foreign students at the graduate
level, mainly from China and South Korea, and foreign students represented
12 percent of the graduate students in S&E fields (appendix
table 2-42 ).
Like the United Kingdom, Canada has traditionally educated foreign
students from British Commonwealth countries. In 1985, these countries
were 6 of the 10 top countries of origin of foreign S&E students
in Canada. As foreign student flows increased in the 1990s, the
top countries of origin of foreign students in Canada shifted toward
non-Commonwealth countries in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East
From 1985 to 1998, Canada enrolled an increasing number of foreign
students in its graduate and undergraduate S&E programs. By
1998, 16,700 foreign graduate S&E students were enrolled in
Canadian universities, up from 9,400 in 1985. In 1998, foreign students
represented about 9 percent of undergraduate enrollment in S&E
fields, with larger percentages in mathematics and physical sciences
(16 percent) and engineering and applied sciences (13 percent).
These percentages were up slightly from 1985 (appendix
table 2-43 ).
Foreign students represented 21 percent of all graduate S&E
students in Canada in 1998, compared with 17 percent in 1985, with
higher foreign representation in mathematics and physical sciences
(30 percent) and engineering and applied sciences (32 percent).
Germany is recruiting students from India and China to fill its
research universities, particularly in engineering and computer
sciences (Grote 2000 and Koenig 2001).
Germany has also established bachelor's and master's degree programs
taught in English to attract students from the United States, Europe,
and other countries. Since 2000, Germany's report of higher education
statistics has included earned bachelor's and master's degrees in
these new types of programs.
International Comparison of Foreign Doctoral
Like the United States, the United Kingdom and France have many
foreign students among their S&E doctoral degree recipients.
By 2001, around 36 percent of S&E doctorates from U.K. and U.S.
universities were awarded to foreign students. Almost 21 percent
of French S&E doctoral recipients were foreign (appendix
table 2-44 ).
The percentage of foreign doctoral degree recipients was generally
higher in engineering, mathematics, and computer sciences. Foreign
students earned 56 percent of the engineering degrees awarded by
U.S. universities, 51 percent of those awarded by U.K. universities,
and 22 percent of those awarded by French universities. Foreign
students earned 49 percent of the mathematics and computer science
doctorates awarded by U.S. universities, 44 percent of those awarded
by U.K. universities, and 29 percent of those awarded by French
universities. In addition, Japan and Germany had a modest but growing
percentage of foreign students among their S&E doctoral degree
recipients (figure 2-40
table 2-44 ).
The internationalization of S&E higher education can benefit
both industrialized and developing countries. (See sidebar, "Contributions
of Developed Countries to Increasing Global S&E Capacity.")