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William & Mary maintains top spot in study abroad among public universities

  • Studying abroad:
    Studying abroad:  For the third year in a row, William & Mary has the highest percentage of undergraduates participating in study abroad programs compared to any other public university in the United States.  Photo courtesy of the Reves Center
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For the third year in a row, William & Mary has the highest percentage of undergraduates participating in study abroad programs compared to any other public university in the United States, according to a report released Nov. 16 by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

In the 2013-2014 academic year, by IIE criteria, 709 William & Mary undergraduate students (46.1 percent) had studied abroad, up from 674 (or 45.8 percent) in the previous year.

The university is a leader among global education even when compared with private universities, ranking 18th in the report’s list of top 40 doctorate-granting institutions, both public and private, moving up from 20th in 2012-2013. The only other Commonwealth school listed in the top 40 of doctorate institutions was the University of Virginia, coming in at 31st this year with 38.4 percent.

“Everyone at William & Mary should be tremendously proud of our continuing number one ranking for study abroad participation among public universities,” said Stephen E. Hanson, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Reves Center for International Studies. “This achievement reflects the deepening global orientation of students and faculty across the university, at a time when fostering global perspectives and connections is more important than ever.”

The Open Doors Report on International Exchange is published annually by the IIE with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The 2015 Report measures the number of students who studied abroad in the 2013-2014 academic year and coincides with International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences in the United States. 

William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies offers students a diverse selection of study abroad opportunities through the Global Education Office (GEO). Students receive support, information, resources and guidance on various study abroad programs and international university exchanges through GEO, which also provides workshops, peer advising and re-entry assistance for students returning from their study abroad experience.

“We are delighted that study abroad has become an important academic component of a W&M experience for so many of our students and continue to work to make global education accessible to all who wish to participate,” said Sylvia Mitterndorfer, director of global education for the Reves Center. “This commitment also is reflected in the new curriculum which will benefit future students.”

The report also found the number of U.S. students studying abroad increased by five percent in 2013/14, the highest rate of growth since before the 2008 economic downturn. While study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the last two decades, reaching a new high of 304,467, still only about 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad before graduating from college.

“International experience is one of the most important components of a 21st century education,” said IIE President Allan E. Goodman. “Studying abroad is one of the best ways undergraduate and graduate students gain the international experience necessary to succeed in today's global workforce. And studying in another country prepares students to be real contributors to working across borders to address key issues in the world we share."

The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities had the highest rate of growth in 35 years, increasing by ten percent to a record high of 974,926 students in the 2014/15 academic year. This strong growth confirms that the United States remains the destination of choice in higher education. The United States hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world, almost double the number hosted by the United Kingdom, the second leading host country.

International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. In a further breakdown, according to NAFSA, the association of international educators, international students at William and Mary contribute $27.3 million and 449 jobs to the local economy.

“We are excited to see that record numbers of students are taking advantage of international education opportunities, and we applaud the efforts of U.S. higher education as we work together to increase the number of American students who study abroad,” said Evan Ryan, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs at the U.S. Department of State. “It is critical that we continue to make study abroad more accessible. These exchanges strengthen ties between the United States and countries around the world. By increasing accessibility to study abroad, we are investing in our future and providing a forum to solve global challenges.”

William & Mary also participates in IIE’s Generation Study Abroad, a national campaign to double the number of students who study abroad by the end of the decade. A total of 450 partners have joined the campaign to date. They include: 298 U.S. colleges and universities from 48 states; 67 higher education institutions and organizations in other countries; 16 education associations; 56 organizations including study abroad, K-12, and social network agencies; and 13 U.S. and foreign government entities, including the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. In addition to significantly expanding study abroad numbers, the campaign will also encourage and track campus activities that expand diversity in race and ethnicity, academic disciplines, destinations and gender of those who study abroad.