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Foreign Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Continues to Rise While Overall Graduate Enrollment Remains Flat

NSF 14-313 | May 2014| PDF format. PDF  
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by Ruth Heuer, Peter Einaudi, and Kelly H. Kang[1]

The number of U.S. citizens and permanent residents enrolled in science and engineering (S&E) graduate programs declined to 385,343 students in 2012. The 1.7% drop from 2011 was countered by a 4.3% increase in enrollment of foreign S&E graduate students on temporary visas, which rose to 176,075. Overall growth of S&E graduate student enrollment stalled for the second year in a row in 2012, after experiencing 2%–3% annual increases from 2005 to 2010. S&E graduate enrollment grew by less than 1% in 2011 and 2012.

These and other findings are from the fall 2012 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS), cosponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Graduate Enrollment in S&E

S&E Graduate Student Profile

Between 2011 and 2012, S&E graduate enrollment declined among part-time students, women, and U.S. citizens and permanent residents across most ethnic and racial groups. A profile of S&E graduate enrollment by these characteristics is shown in table 1.

TABLE 1. Graduate enrollment in science and engineering fields, by enrollment status, sex, citizenship, ethnicity, and race: 2003—12
% change
Characteristic 2003 2004 2005 2006 2,007
olda
2,007
newa
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2011-12
All graduate students in surveyed fields 474,645 475,873 478,275 486,287 502,375 516,199 529,275 545,685 556,532 560,941 561,418 0.1
Full time 339,028 340,529 341,742 349,802 362,976 371,542 383,560 398,498 409,107 411,168 414,384 0.8
Part time 135,617 135,344 136,533 136,485 139,399 144,657 145,715 147,187 147,425 149,773 147,034 -1.8
Male 276,248 274,008 271,967 275,181 284,080 288,926 297,278 307,936 316,051 318,209 318,870 0.2
Female 198,397 201,865 206,308 211,106 218,295 227,273 231,997 237,749 240,481 242,732 242,548 -0.1
U.S. citizens and permanent residentsb 327,181 332,022 338,513 343,603 353,142 365,091 369,781 382,342 390,403 392,160 385,343 -1.7
Hispanic or Latino 21,241 22,212 23,387 24,140 25,032 25,739 26,098 27,265 28,609 30,808 31,406 1.9
Not Hispanic or Latino
American Indian or Alaska Native 1,879 1,848 1,958 2,112 2,168 2,262 2,618 2,549 2,500 2,392 2,188 -8.5
Asianc 30,746 29,570 29,547 29,232 30,134 30,697 30,356 31,754 32,185 33,147 32,700 -1.3
Black or African American 24,174 24,624 25,248 25,664 26,565 27,637 28,680 29,973 31,094 32,197 31,338 -2.7
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanderc 1,040 1,075 1,027 947 1,145 1,200 1,121 1,125 1,088 1,008 920 -8.7
White 222,674 224,850 225,776 227,993 232,043 240,204 242,623 250,443 255,256 256,096 250,783 -2.1
More than one racec 423 493 528 501 543 551 1,319 2,300 4,989 6,103 7,578 24.2
Unknown ethnicity and race 25,004 27,350 31,042 33,014 35,512 36,801 36,966 36,933 34,682 30,409 28,430 -6.5
Temporary visa holders 147,464 143,851 139,762 142,684 149,233 151,108 159,494 163,343 166,129 168,781 176,075 4.3

a In 2007, eligible fields were reclassified, newly eligible fields were added, and the survey was redesigned to improve coverage and coding of eligible units. "2007new" presents data as they were collected in 2007; "2007old" shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to survey changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.
b Ethnicity and race data are available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.
c Reporting of ethnicity and race in the 2008–12 Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering (GSS) has been affected by changes in the reporting of ethnicity and race in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). In 2008, IPEDS respondents were asked to use a new race classification that included a category for two or more races and separate reporting of Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders from Asians. The new classification was optional in the 2008 and 2009 IPEDS but mandatory starting in 2010 and may have contributed to a significant increase in GSS reporting of More than one race, not Hispanic or Latino.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 1 Source Data: Excel file

Enrollment of part-time S&E graduate students declined by 1.8% to 147,034 students, and full-time enrollment grew by 0.8% to 414,384 students in 2012. Full-time students made up 73.8% of the S&E graduate student population.

Enrollment of female graduate students decreased in 2012 by 0.1% to 242,548. Although small, this was the first decline in S&E graduate enrollment of women observed in the GSS, which began collecting data on graduate enrollment by sex in 1977. Women made up 43.2% of the S&E graduate enrollment in 2012.

Among U.S. citizens and permanent residents, graduate enrollment in S&E declined across all ethnic and racial groups except Hispanics or Latinos and those reporting more than one race. In 2012 S&E graduate enrollment decreased by 2.7% to 31,338 for blacks or African Americans and by 2.1% to 250,783 for whites, the first decline in enrollment for these groups in 10 years. Over the past decade, the distribution of enrollment by race has become more diverse, with whites making up 65.1% of the U.S. citizens and permanent resident graduate students in 2012, compared with 68.1% in 2003.

Enrollment of foreign students rose in 2012 by 4.3%. S&E graduate students holding temporary visas made up 31.4% of the 2012 S&E graduate enrollment, up from 30.1% in 2011 (figure 1).



FIGURE 1.  Citizenship status of graduate students in science and engineering fields: 2008—12.

  Figure 1 Source Data: Excel file

S&E Graduate Enrollment by Field

After a decade of steady growth, the number of graduate students enrolled in science fields decreased overall by 0.3% between 2011 and 2012 (table 2). Graduate enrollment in social sciences saw a substantial increase in 2011, which may have been influenced by the adoption of an updated classification of degree-granting program fields in the 2011 GSS.[2] The subsequent decline in this field in 2012 (-3.1 %) returned enrollment numbers to levels seen in previous years. Some of the year-to-year change may be due to changes in institutional reporting as well as to actual declines in enrollment.

TABLE 2. Graduate enrollment in science, engineering, and health, by field: 2003—12
% change
Field 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
olda
2007
newa
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2011—12
All surveyed fields 567,121 574,463 582,226 597,643 607,823 619,499 631,489 631,645 632,652 626,820 627,243 0.1
Science and engineering 474,645 475,873 478,275 486,287 502,375 516,199 529,275 545,685 556,532 560,941 561,418 0.1
Science 347,268 352,307 357,710 363,246 372,120 384,523 391,419 401,008 407,291 414,440 413,033 -0.3
Agricultural sciences 13,197 13,445 13,123 13,016 13,222 13,528 14,153 15,200 15,656 16,129 16,234 0.7
Biological sciences 64,701 66,565 68,479 69,941 71,663 71,932 72,666 73,304 74,928 75,423 76,447 1.4
Computer sciences 53,696 50,016 47,978 47,653 48,959 48,246 49,553 51,161 51,546 51,234 51,789 1.1
Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences 14,620 15,131 14,836 14,920 14,675 14,100 14,389 14,839 15,655 15,820 16,069 1.6
Mathematical sciences 19,465 19,931 20,210 20,815 21,335 20,975 21,400 22,226 23,136 23,801 24,575 3.3
Physical sciences 34,298 35,761 36,375 36,901 37,111 36,824 37,319 38,149 38,973 39,694 39,928 0.6
Psychologyb 52,162 54,126 57,282 57,653 60,284 59,617 58,991 56,184 53,419 54,486 54,117 -0.7
Social sciences 95,129 97,332 99,427 102,347 104,871 103,150 103,384 107,820 109,220 111,661 108,169 -3.1
Other sciencesa, c ne ne ne ne ne 16,151 19,564 22,125 24,758 26,192 25,705 -1.9
Engineering 127,377 123,566 120,565 123,041 130,255 131,676 137,856 144,677 149,241 146,501 148,385 1.3
Aerospace engineering 4,048 4,089 4,170 4,482 4,616 4,616 4,902 5,266 5,540 5,691 5,069 -10.9
Architecturea ne ne ne ne ne 4,601 5,905 6,804 6,795 3,111 2,363 -24.0
Biomedical engineering 5,301 5,807 6,067 6,482 6,881 6,904 7,339 7,904 8,497 9,175 9,157 -0.2
Chemical engineering 7,516 7,452 7,173 7,261 7,383 7,584 7,892 8,188 8,668 8,828 9,222 4.5
Civil engineeringa 18,890 18,561 18,114 17,802 19,867 16,071 16,931 18,638 19,559 19,596 19,922 1.7
Electrical engineering 41,763 38,995 37,450 38,265 40,207 40,588 41,164 41,218 41,336 41,580 42,347 1.8
Industrial engineering 14,313 13,852 13,650 13,829 14,290 14,474 15,692 15,825 15,205 14,494 14,469 -0.2
Mechanical engineering 18,393 17,852 17,373 17,919 18,366 18,347 19,585 21,243 22,509 21,883 23,088 5.5
Metallurgical or materials engineering 5,131 5,059 5,160 5,268 5,365 5,314 5,539 5,863 6,274 6,649 6,985 5.1
Other engineering 12,022 11,899 11,408 11,733 13,280 13,177 12,907 13,728 14,858 15,494 15,763 1.7
Healthb, c 92,476 98,590 103,951 111,356 105,448 103,300 102,214 85,960 76,120 65,879 65,825 -0.1
Clinical medicinea, d 20,574 20,866 21,414 23,441 24,616 22,751 23,939 24,125 25,699 26,634 26,798 0.6
Other health 71,902 77,724 82,537 87,915 80,832 80,549 78,275 61,835 50,421 39,245 39,027 -0.6

ne = not eligible; data were not collected for this field prior to 2007

a In 2007, eligible fields were reclassified, newly eligible fields were added, and the survey was redesigned to improve coverage and coding of eligible units. "2007new" presents data collected in 2007; "2007old" shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to survey changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.
b Beginning with 2008, more rigorous follow-up was done with institutions regarding exclusion of practitioner-oriented graduate degree programs in psychology and health. This change may impact trends in these fields.
c Includes communication, family and consumer sciences and human sciences, neuroscience, and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. These fields were added in 2007, although some programs reported within them had been reported prior to 2007 within other fields.
d Includes research-oriented graduate students in anesthesiology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology and cancer research, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, pediatrics, preventive medicine and community health, psychiatry, pulmonary disease, radiology, surgery, and clinical medicine, not elsewhere classified.

NOTES:Use trend data with caution. Some of the trend changes in science fields between 2011 and 2012 may be related to changes in the eligibility of some fields due to 2011 GSS code changes, particularly in social sciences, some due to real changes in enrollment; and other from changes in institutional reporting. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf13331/, appendix A, "Technical Notes," for details.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 2 Source Data: Excel file

Graduate enrollment in engineering fields rebounded in 2012, following a decline in 2011. The 1.3% increase (from 146,501 to 148,385 between 2011 and 2012) in graduate students enrolled in engineering can be traced to certain engineering fields—chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and metallurgical or materials engineering—showing growth over 4.5% between 2011 and 2012. Graduate enrollment in biomedical engineering stabilized in 2012, following several years of steady growth from 5,301 graduate students in 2003 to 9,157 in 2012.

Totals in selected health fields are presented for comparison in table 2. Further analysis of GSS graduate enrollment data for selected health fields, both for S&E graduate enrollment and for postdoctoral appointees (postdocs), are available from NIH (see "Data Sources and Limitations").

Postdoctoral Appointees in S&E

S&E Postdoc Profile

The GSS also collects information about postdocs employed at U.S. academic institutions (and their affiliates, such as research centers and hospitals) with graduate programs in S&E and selected health fields. A total of 43,841 S&E postdocs were reported in 2012, a 0.6% decrease from 2011 (table 3).

TABLE 3. Postdoctoral appointees in science, engineering, and health, by sex, citizenship, ethnicity, race, and field: 2003—12
% change
Field 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
olda
2007
newa
2008 2009 2010b 2011 2012 2011—12
All postdocs in surveyed fields 46,728 47,240 48,555 49,343 50,712 50,840 54,164 57,805 63,439 62,639 62,851 0.3
Science and engineering 33,666 34,065 34,456 34,887 35,894 36,223 38,203 40,804 44,320 44,121 43,841 -0.6
Male 22,882 23,080 23,227 23,361 24,412 24,631 25,119 26,647 28,531 28,314 28,176 -0.5
Female 10,784 10,985 11,229 11,526 11,482 11,592 13,084 14,157 15,789 15,807 15,665 -0.9
U.S. citizens and permanent residentsc 13,542 13,969 14,078 14,111 14,903 15,107 16,274 18,175 20,430 20,340 20,214 -0.6
Hispanic or Latino na na na na na na na na 813 901 862 -4.3
Not Hispanic or Latino na na na na na na na na 16,332 16,357 16,006 -2.1
American Indian or Alaska Native na na na na na na na na 62 66 51 -22.7
Asian na na na na na na na na 3,592 3,502 3,330 -4.9
Black or African American na na na na na na na na 564 610 615 0.8
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander na na na na na na na na 53 53 63 18.9
White na na na na na na na na 11,980 11,965 11,835 -1.1
More than one race na na na na na na na na 81 161 112 -30.4
Unknown ethnicity and race na na na na na na na na 3,285 3,082 3,346 8.6
Temporary visa holders 20,124 20,096 20,378 20,776 20,991 21,116 21,929 22,629 23,890 23,781 23,627 -0.6
Science 29,856 30,116 30,290 30,245 30,986 31,281 32,741 34,388 37,351 37,335 36,738 -1.6
Agricultural sciences 1,054 959 1,007 927 948 985 1,147 1,083 1,190 1,256 1,290 2.7
Biological sciences 18,625 18,716 18,747 18,807 19,218 19,109 19,827 20,159 21,726 21,107 20,086 -4.8
Computer sciences 355 384 406 467 516 456 493 594 763 759 760 0.1
Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences 1,182 1,263 1,364 1,495 1,322 1,250 1,339 1,424 1,740 1,774 1,956 10.3
Mathematical sciences 449 468 500 579 621 624 723 737 791 830 902 8.7
Physical sciences 6,829 7,059 7,011 6,703 6,760 6,719 6,885 7,447 7,583 7,490 7,430 -0.8
Psychology 960 902 884 873 1,106 1,088 1,077 1,219 1,132 1,124 1,132 0.7
Social sciences 402 365 371 394 495 483 508 561 711 774 799 3.2
Other sciencesa, d ne ne ne ne ne 567 742 1,164 1,715 2,221 2,383 7.3
Engineering 3,810 3,949 4,166 4,642 4,908 4,942 5,462 6,416 6,969 6,786 7,103 4.7
Aerospace engineering 141 141 153 165 178 178 154 168 212 202 170 -15.8
Architecturea ne ne ne ne ne 5 11 22 10 16 6 -62.5
Biomedical engineering 388 425 477 591 640 640 710 960 1,023 1,069 1,161 8.6
Chemical engineering 686 689 702 735 758 790 880 1,084 1,077 1,137 1,098 -3.4
Civil engineeringa 300 313 384 458 419 417 465 535 571 551 590 7.1
Electrical engineering 646 654 689 721 885 884 987 1,025 1,095 1,035 1,152 11.3
Industrial engineering 45 50 51 51 73 71 115 109 151 121 127 5.0
Mechanical engineering 543 514 562 644 725 722 784 948 1,021 889 985 10.8
Metallurgical and materials engineering 539 567 578 571 555 564 605 758 841 860 854 -0.7
Other engineering 522 596 570 706 675 671 751 807 968 906 960 6.0
Health 13,062 13,175 14,099 14,456 14,818 14,617 15,961 17,001 19,119 18,518 19,010 2.7

na = not applicable; data were not collected at this level of detail. ne = not eligible; data were not collected for this field prior to 2007.

a In 2007, eligible fields were reclassified, newly eligible fields were added, and the survey was redesigned to improve coverage and coding of eligible units. "2007new" presents data as they were collected in 2007; "2007old" shows data as they would have been collected in prior years. Due to survey changes, counts should be used with caution for trend analysis. See http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf10307/ for more detail.
bIn 2010, the postdoc section of the survey was expanded, and significant effort was made to ensure that appropriate personnel were providing postdoc data. As a result, it is unclear how much of the increase in postdoc counts from 2009 to 2010 is real and how much is due to improved data collection. More information on the changes to the postdoc data collection is available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf13334/. Postdoc data from 2010 and 2011 were revised in 2012 based on new imputation procedures; these data supersede those contained in previous reports.
c Ethnicity and race data were collected for postdocs starting in 2010 and are available for U.S. citizens and permanent residents only.
d Includes communication, family and consumer sciences and human sciences, neuroscience, and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. These fields were added in 2007, although some programs reported within them had been reported prior to 2007 within other fields.

SOURCE: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, NSF-NIH Survey of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering.

Table 3 Source Data: Excel file

The number of S&E postdocs dropped from 2011 to 2012 among men (-0.5%) and women (-0.9%). The share of female S&E postdocs has grown over the past decade from a steady 31%–33% through 2007 to about 36% in 2012.

The distribution of U.S. citizen and permanent resident S&E postdocs by ethnicity and race shows little change from when these data were first collected. The only noticeable changes were in the declining share of Asian postdocs in 2012 (16.5%), compared with the previous years (17.2% in 2011 and 17.6% in 2010).

Since 2010, the share of S&E postdocs who hold temporary visas has remained steady at 53.9%. Although foreign postdocs still have the larger share of S&E postdocs, their share has decreased from a decade ago (59.8% in 2003).

S&E Postdocs by Field

Substantial growth in engineering fields over the past decade has continued to shift the distribution of postdocs across the broad categories of science and engineering. The proportion of postdocs in science in 2012 was 83.8%, down from 88.7% in 2003, and engineering made up 16.2% of S&E postdocs in 2012, up from 11.3% in 2003.

In 2012, the number of postdocs in science fields declined by 1.6% (37,335 in 2011 and 36,738 in 2012). The decrease in 2012 is largely due to a decline in the number of postdocs in biological sciences (-4.8%) and physical sciences (-0.8%). The science fields with the largest growth in 2012 were earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences (10.3%); mathematical sciences (8.7%); and other sciences, which includes the fields of neuroscience and multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary studies (7.3%).

A decrease in the number of science postdocs in 2012 was partially offset by an increase in the number of engineering postdocs (4.7%). In 2012, the number of postdocs in engineering climbed to a new high of 7,103, nearly doubling the number since 2003. The two largest increases in the number of engineering postdocs from 2010 to 2012 were in electrical engineering (11.3%) and mechanical engineering (10.8%).

Data Sources and Limitations

Conducted since 1966, the GSS is an annual survey of all academic institutions in the United States granting research-based master's or doctoral degrees in science, engineering, or selected health (SEH) fields. The 2012 GSS collected data from 13,952 organizational units (departments, programs, affiliated research centers, and health care facilities) at 565 institutions of higher education and their affiliates in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The institutional response rate was 99.3%. An overview of the survey is available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/.

GSS health fields are collected under the advisement of NIH. These fields comprise about one-third of all health fields in the U.S. Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) taxonomy.[3] NIH information on trends seen within these selected health fields can be found at http://www.report.nih.gov/nihdatabook/.

In 2011, the GSS field taxonomy was updated to conform to the 2010 CIP. The impact on overall GSS counts as a result of this change was minimal. See appendix A, "Technical Notes," in Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2011 (NSF 13-331) for additional information about the 2011 GSS field taxonomy updates.

In 2012, missing values from the new postdoc and nonfaculty researcher data collected beginning in 2010 were imputed for the first time using more detailed imputation procedures. Therefore, the postdoc numbers in 2010 and 2011 are different from the numbers released in previous years. The data in this InfoBrief supersede data in previous reports.

This publication provides the first release of data from the fall 2012 GSS. Data tables from the 2012 GSS will be available at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/srvygradpostdoc/. Individual data tables are available in advance by contacting the NSF author.

Notes

[1] Ruth Heuer and Peter Einaudi are with RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC. For more information, contact Kelly H. Kang, Human Resources Statistics Program, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 965, Arlington, VA 22230 (kkang@nsf.gov; 703-292-7796).

[2] For details, see appendix A, "Technical Notes," of Graduate Students and Postdoctorates in Science and Engineering: Fall 2011 at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf13331/.

[3] The CIP provides a taxonomic scheme that supports the consistent reporting of fields of study and program completions activity. For more information, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/.


National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics
Foreign Graduate Enrollment in Science and Engineering Continues to Rise While Overall Graduate Enrollment Remains Flat
Arlington, VA (NSF 14-313) [May 2014]


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