IIE Networker - Spring 2009 - (Page 39)

STUDENT MOBILITY Student Flows from the Middle East: Iranian and Saudi Arabian Students in the United States By Rachel Marcus LOOKING AT THE trends in Open Doors data can reveal much about developments within a country and how these affect student mobility. But this information is best understood when considered in its historical and global context. While this article draws on Open Doors 2008 data on Saudi and Iranian students in the U.S., it also looks at the shifts in numbers that have occurred over the past three decades in order to provide a more comprehensive look at these two significant countries in the Middle East. In 1979/80, Iran accounted for 61 percent of all students of Middle East origin in the U.S., while Saudi Arabia accounted for just 11 percent (Figure 1). Today, the picture is much different: Saudi Arabia sends 40 percent of all students of Middle East origin and Iran sends just over 12 percent of the Middle East total. The flow of international students to the U.S. from these two countries reflects developments in the Middle East and the rest of the world: the global economy, geopolitics, cultural influences and domestic policies. From 1975 until 1984, Open Doors contained a separate analysis of numbers of students from OPEC countries studying in the U.S. 1 These were years that saw many fluctuations in the global political economy, and these changes were reflected in the price of oil. Shifts in the numbers of students from OPEC countries also mirrored these changes. The 1979/80 edition of Open Doors notes that in that year “the number of students from OPEC countries increased by 12.6 percent while there was only a 6.4 percent increase in students from all other countries.” This was following a 21.2 percent increase of OPEC students from the previous year. Two of the countries responsible for the large increases were Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran was the top sending place of origin from 1974 through 1983. While it is difficult to establish a causal link between fluctuations in oil prices and the changes observed in Open Doors, it is interesting to note that a correlation exists from about 1974 onwards between the price of oil and student mobility. The mid- and late-1970s were years of high oil prices, in part due to OPEC production Figure 1: Changing Demographics of International Students from the Middle East (Open Doors Report) 1979/08 28% 11% 61% 2007/08 12% Iran Saudi Arabia Rest of the Middle East 48% 40% quotas. Iran’s peak as a student sending country occurred during this period, and in 1979/80 51,310 Iranian students studied in the U.S. The trend line for Saudi Arabia tends to move in the same direction as Iran’s, with large increases through the early and mid 1970s. The peak for Saudi Arabia occurred in 1980/81, when 10,440 Saudi students enrolled at U.S. institutions. When the price of oil declined in the 1980s and early 1990s, the flow of both Iranian and Saudi students into the U.S. slowed. Saudi Arabia By the mid 1990s, Saudi Arabia began to send a greater number of students to the U.S., while the flow of Iranian students continued its decline. Both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. affirmed their intentions to strengthen this trend in 2005, when the King Abdullah Scholarship was announced at the Crawford ranch of President George W. Bush. The King Abdullah Scholarships are awarded by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education with the aim to send between 15,000 and 17,000 Saudi students to the U.S. over a five year period. That target has yet to be reached, but there has been substantial progress, with a 129 percent increase of Saudi student studying in the U.S. in 2006/07 over the previous year. All signs indicate that the upward Figure 2: Percentage of International Students from OPEC States in the U.S. (Open Doors, selected years) 100.0% 80.0% 60.0% 40.0% 20.0% 0.0% 75/76 76/77 77/78 78/79 79/80 80/81 81/82 82/83 OPEC States Rest of the World 83/84 07/08 39

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2009

IIE Networker - Spring 2009
 Message from Allan E. Goodman
 IIENetworker University Presidents Interview Series: Edward Guiliano, President of New York Institute of Technology
 Best Practices in International Education: 2009 Andrew Heiskell Awards
 HRH Princess Ghida Talal of Jordan Receives IIE Humanitarian Award
 Qatar's Outstanding Schools Initiative: A New Model for International Linkages in Education
 The Community College of Qatar: New Initiative to Meet Emergent National Educational and Labor Market Goals
 Toward a UAE Liberal Studies Stream
 New York University Abu Dhabi and the Research University as Global Network
 Expanding Education Abroad in the Arab World
 The Middle East as a Study Abroad Destination
 Student Flows from the Middle East: Iranian and Saudi Arabian Students in the United States
 The Desert as Meeting Place: Where Students from the Middle East and Around the World Come Together
 A Race to the Top: Helping Jordan Win the Right Race
 The Browser: Index of Advertisers
 IIE Program Profile: IIE's Work in the MENA Region

IIE Networker - Spring 2009