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UC Reflects National Trends in International Student Population Growth

UC is seeing significant growth in its population of undergraduates from China and is now leading international recruitment trends in emerging markets: Vietnam and Iraq.

Date: 8/20/2012 12:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Provided by International Admissions

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati continues to diversify its student population by bringing a world of students and scholars to campus. UC International Admissions reports that the university expects to add more than 200 Chinese students this fall to an existing population of over 700. At UC, China surpassed India last year in representing UC’s largest international student population. The surging population of Chinese students is reflecting trends nationally.
file photo
File photo: International Orientation

The 2011 Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report found that international student enrollment at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 5 percent in 2010-2011, indicating that 32 percent more international students were studying at American universities than a decade ago. The report also found that the significant growth was coming from Chinese students, particularly undergraduates.

Nationally, Chinese students studying in the U.S. increased by 23 percent – overall, and 43 percent at the undergraduate level, according to the Open Doors report.

UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business is seeing the largest demand from the Chinese student population. Lawrence Gales, a UC associate professor of management and academic director of international programs, says that preceding the surge of Chinese students studying in the U.S. , the college held a long history of establishing partnerships with fellow institutions in China. “In the past year, the college has formed three new partnerships with China. Through those and future partnerships in the works, we’re expecting to see up to 100 Chinese undergraduates in the next two years.”

Gales says that the growth reflects the demand for western-style business education programs, something that even the top-tier Chinese universities are still building. “The Chinese government is seeking outside support for high-specialty areas such as finance, accounting and management,” Gales explains. “In particular, finance is one of our most high-demand programs because it’s an area where the Chinese don’t have a lot of home-grown expertise,” Gales says. “This fall, we’re expecting 24 graduate students to enter our finance one-plus-one master’s degree partnerships with Xiamen University, a top university in China, and our hope is to grow other graduate programs through partnerships with elite Chinese institutions.”

UC has gained national attention for its approach to recruiting international students – part of the university’s 2019 goals of establishing UC as a global university. “From fall 2007 to fall 2011, we saw a 30 percent increase in our (total) international population, and over that time, we’ve almost tripled our undergraduate international population,” says Jonathan Weller, director of UC International Admissions. “Among our goals in the UC 2019 Strategic Plan is that by 2019, 8 percent of our student population will be represented by international students, and we’re well on the path to meeting that goal,” Weller says.

Emerging International Populations Seeking a U.S. Education


Since 2011, UC International Admissions representatives have taken three trips to Vietnam, one was to participate in educational trade missions sponsored by the U.S. Commercial Service and U.S. Department of Commerce. UC reported one undergraduate student from Vietnam last year. Over the past four years, UC has not had more than 20 Vietnamese students total enrolled at the university, but issued visa documents for 14 new Vietnamese undergraduate students this fall.

According to the Open Doors report, Vietnam is the eighth largest country for sending students to the U.S. There were 14,888 Vietnamese students enrolled in American colleges and universities in the 2010-11 academic year, the most recent year for which there is data. This represented a 13.5 percent increase in Vietnamese students from the previous year.

Frank Merendino, assistant director of UC International Admissions, says that while Vietnam is still somewhat challenged economically, the country is booming in terms of population and building. “I was seeing that in terms of how fast the skyscrapers were popping up in the six-month span that I traveled there,” says Merendino.

In this growing country, the academic demand is for business and engineering. Also in Vietnam, Merendino says UC, the founder of cooperative education, is very popular because of its co-op opportunities.

UC now has a full-time staff member in Vietnam to assist the growing student demand. A UC alumnus, Spencer Utt graduated from UC in 2010 with a bachelor’s in bassoon performance (College-Conservatory of Music) and a minor in Asian Studies (McMicken College of Arts and Sciences). In his role as Vietnam country coordinator, he will be expanding the university’s reputation in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.


Representatives of UC International Admissions are planning their third trip to Iraq in the past 12 months this fall, as part of the University System of Ohio’s commitment to the Iraq Education Initiative.

The Iraq Education Initiative – fully funded by Iraq – is designed to rebuild that country by building on educational opportunities. Academically talented students from Iraq are awarded funding from their government to earn their college degree in the U.S., then return home to help the country rebuild. The vast majority of Iraqi students will study intensive English for several months – sometimes even up to a year – before entering an American college or university.

In October, two UC representatives will attend an EducationUSA University Fair in Iraq, which will include a visit to a SABIS school, an international college preparatory high school. Nazanin Tork, a senior admissions officer who will be making her third trip to Iraq, adds that the university features a website of the Iraqi initiative that helps mainstream the application process. The website is in the languages of English and Kurdish.

Tork adds that UC’s recruitment efforts have led to 9 Iraqi graduate students currently studying intensive English at the Cincinnati ELS Center on UC’s campus. All nine students intend to enroll at UC in the next several months. There are 20 new Iraqi students scheduled to begin their English training at ELS this fall as part of their progression toward a UC graduate degree.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that international students bring a significant positive economic impact to the nation. The department reports that international students contribute more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy due to tuition and living expenses.

Hosting international students is big business for Ohio as well, says Weller. With more than 24,700 students, Ohio has the eighth largest international student population in the United States. The Open Doors report indicates that these students contributed an estimated $662 million to the state in the 2010-11 academic year.

“In the United States, less than 2 percent of American students study abroad each academic year, yet it is so important for American students to understand the world they live in. Bringing the world to campus is an ideal situation, because students can have an international experience without ever leaving the campus,” says Weller.

Through its website, UC now offers virtual tours in 11 different languages.

Five-Year UC Snapshot: China and India  (Source: Institutional Research)


China:  251 undergraduate; 488 graduate; 739 total
India:  36 undergraduate; 529 graduate; 565 total


China: 141 undergraduate; 386 graduate; 527 total
India: 35 undergraduate; 515 graduate; 550 total


China: 77 undergraduate; 332 graduate; 409 total
India: 36 undergraduate; 501 graduate; 537 total


China: 48 undergraduate; 343 graduate; 391 total
India: 37 undergraduate; 502 graduate; 539 total


China: 18 undergraduate; 378 graduate; 396 total
India: 31 undergraduate; 558 graduate; 589 total