The number of students from the Middle East studying in the United States has reached 42,543, an increase of 26 per cent, according to the 2010/2011 Open Doors report released last week. Of this figure, 1,871 students were from the UAE, with just over half of them pursuing undergraduate programmes.
The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Overall, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the US increased by 5 per cent to 723,277 during the 2010/11 academic year.
There are now 32 per cent more international students studying at US colleges and universities than there were a decade ago. Women represent approximately 45 per cent of the international students.
Saudi Arabia leads
Student exchange was also flourishing — almost 5,000 students from the US studied in the Middle East in 2009/10, which is a 35 per cent increase over the previous year.
However, there was a big dip in the number of foreign students choosing the UAE as a study destination. In 2008/09, 955 students came to the UAE while in 2009/10, 634 students were hosted.
A total of 22,704 students from Saudi Arabia study in the US with 48 per cent enrolled in undergraduate programmes.
Saudi Arabia, which leads in the Middle East for sending students abroad, moved up to number six on the global list this year, with an increase of 44 per cent, largely due to the Saudi government's generous scholarship programme.
Higher education is among the United States' top service sector exports, as international students provide significant revenue, not just to the host campuses but also to local economies of the host states.
Open Doors 2011 reports that 63 per cent of international students receive most of their funds from personal and family sources.
When other sources of foreign funding are included, such as assistance from their governments or universities, almost 70 per cent of international students' primary funding, including tuition, comes from sources outside the US.
China (158,000 students), India (104,000) and South Korea (73,000) are the top three countries sending students abroad and account for 46 per cent of the total international enrolments.
"It is positive news that our higher education institutions continue to excel in attracting students from all over the world, and in preparing American students to succeed in an increasingly global environment," said Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education.
"Educational exchange in both directions furthers business and cultural ties between the United States and other countries."
California remains the leading host state for international students (96,535, up two per cent), followed by New York (78,888, up four per cent), Texas (61,636, up five per cent), Massachusetts (38,698, up 10 per cent), Illinois (33,766, up nine per cent), Pennsylvania (30,507, up nine per cent), Florida (29,719, no change), Ohio (24,709, up 11 per cent), Michigan (24,668, up two per cent), and Indiana (20,112, up eight per cent).
International students in the top 10 host states bring revenue of up to $3 billion to their host states. For the tenth year in a row, the University of Southern California is the leading host institution, with 8,615 international students in 2010/11. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hosts the second highest number of foreign students (7,991), with New York University a close No 3 (7,988).