A leading policy research organisation in the United States has called for measures to attract more science and engineering students from India and other countries. For employers in the United States, international students are an important source of talent.
The study titled ‘International Students in Science and Engineering’ by National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) noted that the number of American students pursuing graduate courses in computer and information sciences is relatively low.
“At many US universities, the data show it would be difficult to maintain important graduate programmes without international students,” Stuart Anderson, executive director at NFAP, was quoted as saying.
“Maintaining a welcoming policy on international students is essential to preserving America’s role as a centre of technological innovation,” he said. “Such a policy means reasonable visa policies for international students and making it easier for students to work after graduation, including preserving STEM OPT (optional practical training) and improved policies on H-1B visas, per country limits and employment-based green cards,” Anderson said.
According to the NFAP analysis, there were only 9,083 full-time US graduate students in electrical engineering across US universities in 2019, compared to 26,343 full-time international students. There were 17,334 full-time US graduate students in computer and information sciences compared to 44,786 international graduate students.
Noting that international students form a significant part of the tech workforce in the US, the study said that foreign-born scientists and engineers, over the past two decades, have filled several demands for high-level technical talent in the US.
The highest number of international students go to the US from India and China.
In computer and information sciences, the number of full-time international graduate students annually between 1998 and 2019 increased by 310%. The number of US students, on the other hand, increased by 91%.
However, even before the pandemic struck, the number of full-time international students enrolled in graduate-level electrical engineering at US universities saw a drop of 19.5% between 2015 and 2019, a trend that, if continued, would be a serious problem for US employers and universities.
“To get tenure and perform research, professors require a significant number of graduate students, and there are not enough domestic students alone in certain fields,” Stuart Cooper, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University, said while backing the study.
56% of postdocs in the US, who assist in critical research at US universities after they complete their doctorate, are foreign nationals working on temporary visas, the study said.