The trend that many predicted of fewer foreign students coming to the US for higher education is beginning to be recognized. A recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign visits to US drop sharply, points to tighter visa restrictions and disillusionment with the US abroad as the two main reasons for the decline in visitors. Among the figures quoted:
- English language summer classes enrollment is down 30%
- Overall visa applications dropped from 10.4 million in 2001 to 8.3 million in 2002
- Visa approvals fell from 7.5 million in 2001 to 5.7 million in 2002
Tom blogged about this in his May 29, 2003 article, Exporting Higher Education: Moving Off-Campus? Many would agree that tighter restrictions and increased paperwork will put off many students, but what about a country's image? Do countries need to be concerned about their public image when recruiting students?
The image of the US in higher ed circles may still be strong, but certainly if worldwide public opinion has anything to do with a student's choice of where to attend college, the US may need to pay heed. This issue was of sufficient public interest that the BBC ran a week-long special on their website in mid-June 2003, with correlating television programs entitled, What the World Thinks of America. Among their special features was a fairly extensive poll, surveying over 1000 people in 11 countries worldwide about their opinions of American policy, culture, attitudes, etc.
These polls, taken in June 2003, claim that about 50% of respondents had a generally favorable attitude toward the US as a whole while 40% felt unfavorably. On the other hand, 60% had a very unfavorable attitude toward President Bush, and the US was "rated more dangerous than Iran, by people in Jordan, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea and Brazil, and more dangerous than Syria by respondents all the countries, except for Australia, Israel and the United States."
Since then, as conflict has continued in Iraq and services to Iraqi people are still slow to be reinstated, I doubt that the image has improved.