Applications to Cornell’s Graduate School from international students –– who made up about 40 percent of the graduate and professional student body in Fall 2012 –– decreased about two percent in 2013 from 2012, according to Barbara Knuth, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School.
The trend at Cornell bucks national figures. Nationally, the number of international applications to American graduate schools increased by one percent, Knuth said.
Overall applications to Cornell’s graduate school are also down slightly from last year, falling one percent from 2012 to 2013, according to Knuth.
This is the first year since 2009 that the graduate school has not seen an increase in the number of applicants, Knuth said. Until 2013, the number of applications for the graduate school had been rising steadily over the past five years, from about 14,880 in 2009 to 19,000 in 2012.
According to the International Students and Scholars Office’s website, the largest number of international graduate students come from China, followed by South Korea and India.
“Cornell continues to attract large numbers of students from China because we have an outstanding reputation throughout Asia in many different fields,” said Brendan O’Brien, director of the International Students and Scholars Office. “We have large numbers of graduates from China who have had great experiences at Cornell and have gone to be very successful in their chosen fields.”
Similarly, applications from Taiwanese international students are down 13 percent nationally, but up by 6 percent for Cornell, Knuth said.
The increase in applications from Taiwan and China for Cornell –– compared to the decrease in applications for universities nationwide –– may reflect the strength of Cornell’s programs in the areas of studies sought by Chinese and Taiwanese applicants, according to Knuth.
“Cornell has many strong graduate programs in subjects that have attracted interest from Chinese and Taiwanese applicants, particularly in physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, economics and management,” she said.
Applications from India this year are up by 10 percent at Cornell and 20 percent nationally, while applications from Brazil are up by 25 percent both nationally and at Cornell, according to Knuth.
“This increased activity from Brazil may reflect a concerted effort by the Brazilian government to promote and support financially its citizens to pursue higher education abroad,” said Knuth.
One international student, Patrice Ohouo grad, who is a Ph.D student in molecular biology and genetics, said he was drawn to Cornell because of its biochemistry program.
“I looked at a few places, and I was struck by how well-structured the biochemistry program was,” Ohouo said. “It has been a very enjoyable experience.
Ohouo, who is from Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa, came to the United States 10 years ago to study biology. He did his undergraduate work at SUNY Albany.
“My parents were able to put away some money and wanted to send me away for college because of the lack of opportunity and harsh conditions students face in my country,” he said.
Compared to master’s degree applicants, there has been a greater decrease in doctoral applicants — an almost eight percent drop from 2012 to 2013, Knuth said.
“We’re seeing a greater decline in doctoral applicants compared to masters applicants,” Knuth said.
Knuth also said that the these trends may reflect economic changes in the United States. When the financial crisis and recession hit in 2008 and 2009, doctoral applications dropped, but they increased when the economy began to grow again.
“As federal research funding and the economy grew, doctoral applications grew as well,” Knuth said. “It could be that the current actions regarding sequestration and ongoing discussions about levels of federal research funding are having a dampening effect on interest in pursuing doctoral studies.”