10 Years of IIE Study Abroad Data

Megan Lee
Megan Lee

Megan is an international educator, traveler, and writer. She has led study abroad programs in China and the South Pacific.

We prize the yearly release of the IIE Open Doors data for the snapshot it provides, but what about the longer-term picture from the past decade? How has the popularity of studying in different regions of the world grown relative to others? Over the course of six months, Go Overseas, with the help of an outside data analyst, took a close look at US students abroad from 2002 to 2011, the most recent year for which IIE data is available. International educators know the general trends, but we wanted to dive deeper into the regional data from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Understanding these trends will help us serve our students even better.

Studying abroad is more popular than ever. Despite a global recession in 2008/09 from which we are still recovering, the total number of US students abroad grew 70% over the decade, while total US college enrollment grew 26%. More than a quarter of a million students now study abroad each year, representing 1.3% of the total US student population.

The recession hurt. After six years of 8% growth, the number of US students studying abroad fell 1% in 2009. Positive growth returned in 2010, but not back to the prior rate.

Students are spreading out. The more traditionally popular regions of Western Europe, Mexico, and Australia have given way to a wider array of destinations. All regions grew, but Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe skyrocketed. In terms of sheer numbers, Europe still dominates, with more students than all other locations combined (55%). However, growth rate from '02-'11 was 2nd lowest among all regions. The rest of the world is catching up.

Source: Institute of International Education. (2012). "Profile of U.S. Study Abroad Students, 2000/01-2010/11." Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Retrieved from http://www.iie.org/opendoors.

Report Methodology

Analysis and graphics for this report were created by Leaf and Square Consulting, a data-consulting firm helping companies get the most out of their data through advanced analytics and visualization. Learn more at leafandsquare.com.

Data for this report came from the 2012 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange and the National Center for Education Statistics.

We tried to stay as true to the IIE report methodology as possible, but in some instances it was necessary to modify our approach or aggregate data in a different way. A few notes:

  • "Years" in our report refer to the academic year ending.
  • In general, for countries that changed names or political boundaries during the time period covered in the report, data from years prior to the changes were updated to match the most recent assignment from IIE for consistency.
  • Exceptions: Egypt was reassigned from Africa to the Middle East. Turkey is assigned to the Middle East for the global report and shown regionally in both the Europe and Middle East reports.
  • Students traveling to multiple destinations, a significant group, were excluded from our report due to a lack of detailed destination information.
  • Students classified as "Unspecified" to a particular region in the IIE report were spread proportionally to the countries in that region.

Data and reports may be downloaded as a Tableau Packaged Workbook by following the link underneath the charts. Further inquiries about the data or methodologies may be directed to [email protected].