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New Delhi: Universities in the US saw a 15 per cent drop in the number of international students in the pandemic year of 2020-21, the latest Open Doors Report 2021 said Monday.

In 2020-21, 9,14,095 international students went to US universities — the lowest since 9,74,926 students in 2014-15. The data included students studying on campus in the US and those attending classes online from the US and abroad because of the pandemic restrictions. 

According to the report, China and India continued to send the most number of students to the US, with a cumulative total of 53 per cent in 2020-21.

However, there was a major 13.2 per cent decline in the number of Indian students who went to US universities in 2020-21. While in 2019-20 — 1.93 lakh students had gone to the US for higher studies, the number dropped to 1.67 lakh in 2020-21. This was also the lowest number of Indian students in the US since 2016-17.

The data from past years of Open Doors reports shows that in 2016-17 over 1.86 lakh Indian students went to the US. The figure rose to 1.96 lakh in 2017-18 and 2.02 lakh in 2018-19, before registering consecutive drops.

The US Open Doors report is prepared by Institute of International Education (IIE) supported by the US Department of State.

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‘Historic moment due to global shock’

The US officials attributed the decline primarily to the pandemic. At the launch of the report Monday, IIE head of research evaluation and learning Mirika Markel said the 2021 academic year was a “historic moment for international exchange and student mobility due to the global shock of the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

“Many international students were not able to travel to the United States due to travel restrictions,” said Markel.

As far as Indian students are concerned, the US hopes to make up for the decline from the 2021-22 session as the country has issued a record number of visas to students for the 2021 academic year. 

In a press release shared on 23 August this year, the US embassy had said: “The United States Mission in India is pleased to announce that its Embassy and Consulates approved more student visa applicants in 2021 than ever before, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. Through these efforts, more than 55,000 students and exchange visitors are boarding planes to study in the United States, and more students are being approved every day.”

Speaking to ANI Monday, Anthony Miranda, Counselor for Cultural and Educational Affairs, US embassy, said the effects of the pandemic were seen in the number of students going to the US. However, the country is already seeing a positive trend, he said.

“There were 62,000 visas at an all time high. Also we are seeing data from the ministry of external affairs which covers all of 2021 that shows that there are 200,000 Indian students studying in the US so that is an 8 percent increase in the figures,” Miranda told the news agency. 

“So even though we see a depth which is understandable during Covid-19, we are already seeing a trendline going to positive,” he added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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