More and more US students are exploring the Russian speaking world, and a steadily rising number of Russian students are entering US institutions of higher education.
Amid the many intriguing figures contained in this year's release of the Open Doors Report from our colleagues at the Institute of International Education (IIE), two trends stand out for those of us committed to greater US-Russia understanding: More and more US students are exploring the Russian speaking world, and a steadily rising number of Russian students are entering US institutions of higher education.
While Open Doors indicates a slight decline in the number of Americans studying in Russia during the 2013-14 academic year, US student interest in other parts of the Russian-speaking world grew significantly over the same period. A total of 35 fewer American students traveled to Russia according to Open Doors, representing a total decline of 2.2 percent from the 2012-13 academic year.
However, the number of students studying abroad in many Russophone countries rose markedly during the same period. The total number of US students in Kazakhstan, for instance, increased from 17 to 37 during 2013-14 academic years a 117 percent jump over the previous year. US students in Kyrgyzstan also rose from 18 to 27, a 50 percent increase. Other dramatic increases in US study abroad activity occurred in the Lithuania, where the number of US students rose from 104 to 152 (an increase of more than 46.2 percent) and Estonia, where US enrollments almost doubled from 80 to 145.
As Americans continue exploring new opportunities to study in the Russian-speaking world, over 5,500 Russians attended US institutions of higher education during the last academic year, an increase of more than 13 percent over five years. The US is now the second most popular study abroad location for Russian students, behind only Germany, which provides substantial financial support for visiting students through its academic exchange program. Mobility among Russian undergraduates has also steadily increased over the past five years indicating that Russian enrollments at US institutions will continue to rise in the coming years.
According to American Councils President Dr. Dan E. Davidson, "The study of Russian language and culture and of the contemporary, highly diverse Russian-speaking world is of inherent interest to American university students. Cold War stereotypes of American and of Russians still remain and must be overcome if the two countries are to move beyond the present quagmire in US-Russian official political relations. Nothing can contribute more to this goal than the serious, objective study of Russian language and culture in the US, and of the US and American studies in Russia. The numbers indicate that this principle is well understood by students today in both countries."
As to the impact of all this on US-Russian enrollments, they are indeed holding steady, and very likely to grow in the years ahead.