Trends in international graduate student enrollment at Stanford

March 1, 2021, 9:42 p.m.

Students enrolling in graduate school at Stanford come from a range of countries around the world. The Daily’s Data Team examined international student enrollment in graduate programs at Stanford from data released by the Bechtel International Center. What did we find? The number of graduate students from China has doubled since 2008, while enrollment among graduate students from other countries has remained relatively stagnant in comparison. Among all the different programs, the Graduate School of Business (GSB) has consistently enrolled the highest percentage of international graduate students.

From 2008 to 2019, the largest number of international graduate students enrolled at Stanford came from China and India. In 2008, 485 graduate students from China were enrolled at Stanford. Enrollment among Chinese students has more than doubled in the 11-year span to 995 students. The number of graduate students from India remained the second largest over the 11-year period. In 2019, there were 326 graduate students from India at Stanford, compared to 368 in 2008.

There are two countries, on the other hand, for which enrollment dropped dramatically. The Republic of Korea used to send the third most graduate students to Stanford. In 2008, there were 364 graduate students from Korea, but by 2019, this number dropped to 167 students. Iran, which was one of the top ten countries sending graduate students to Stanford from 2008 to 2013, is no longer one of the top ten. 

Graduate student enrollment numbers from Taiwan, Singapore and France have remained below 115 students between 2008 and 2019. Among these countries, the number of graduate students from France increased the most over the 11-year time frame, with 79 in 2008 and 94 in 2019, but this change is marginal compared to the change in graduate students from other countries, such as China. 

Taken together, the data clearly demonstrates that the number of graduate students from China continues to increase, while the number of graduate students from other countries has remained relatively low in comparison. 

While the home countries of international students continue to change, the percentage of international graduate students at Stanford has remained almost identical, hovering around 33% from 2015 to 2019. The graph below breaks down what schools and disciplines international graduate students are enrolled in.

The trends for graduate student enrollment in each school remained largely the same between 2015 and 2019. The percentage of international students composing the business, law and engineering schools has remained above 30 percent.

The GSB enrolls the largest proportion of international graduate students, with 39% of the students in 2019 being international students. The School of Medicine has the fewest international students, having 8% in 2015 and 10% in 2019. This is not surprising given that in many countries students enroll in medical school immediately after high school. The Graduate School of Education saw the largest percent increase of international students, going from 15% in 2015 to 22% in 2019. 

Graduate student enrollment at Stanford reflects changes in the international environment. As China has become wealthier and its economy is more intertwined with the U.S., more students are coming from China. By contrast, Iran, with whom U.S. relations have withered, now sends far fewer students to Stanford.

Anuka Mohanpuhr ‘24 is an Alumni Engagement Director for The Stanford Daily. She grew up in the Bay Area and is majoring in International Relations. Contact her at amohanpuhr 'at'

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