Final Report for Information Networks

Final Report for LIS 590 IN – Information Networks (Spring, 2012)

Considering Flows of Information within U.S. Higher Education: The Case of International Students and U.S. Study Abroad


International education, in the context of students studying in countries not their own, has been increasing in frequency since the beginning of the twentieth century. In the last fifty years it has increased enormously, with almost 550,000 International Students studying in the United States in 2000/01 compared with almost 725,000 in 2010/11. In contrast, there were approximately 155,000 U.S. students studying abroad for credit from U.S. institutions in 2000/01, compared with approximately 270,000 in 2009/10 (data has not yet been released for 2010/11).

This upswing can have a significant impact on the higher education systems in the affected countries, and also on the types and amount of knowledge flowing between countries sending and receiving students. As a net receiver of students, U.S. institutions may gain some diversity from having International Students attending their schools and from having some of their students study abroad, but the bulk of the information flow tends outwards, as students study in the United States and then return home to their own countries. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as information flowing allows for the creation of new knowledge through differing viewpoints. It is, however, important to consider in the global marketplace, as students from countries such as India may come to the United States to study Engineering or Computer Science, then return home and work for local branches of American skilled-trade companies. At the same time, however, they are contributing to the development of scientific research, cultural exploration, and global business.

As such, it seems very important to understand some key questions: 1) Where are International Students are coming from? 2) Where are U.S. Study Abroad students are going? 3) What is each group is studying? 4) How do those fields of study differ? These questions all lead to the most important question. 5) What does the answers mean for the flow of information into and out of the United States?

The answers are that the largest numbers of students are coming from China, India, South Korea, Canada, and Taiwan, while most U.S. Study Abroad students go to Europe. International Students study Business and Management, Math, and Sciences, but Study Abroad students prefer Social Sciences and Humanities. More students are coming to the U.S. to learn about the Fields of Study that are creating the most jobs in the highest paying industries, while Study Abroad students are focusing on learning about the world and about foreign cultures, but not on jobs that may pay well and benefit the global economy. Overall, more information is flowing out of the United States than in.