The number of American students studying in Zimbabwe increased by 200 percent in 2009-10 to a total of 27. During the same period, the number of Zimbabwean students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education decreased by 8.7 percent from 1,269 to 1,159, most likely due to economic challenges in Zimbabwe making it difficult for families to pay for fees and tuitions. Open Doors 2010, the annual report on international academic mobility published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State, released these statistics on Monday to mark the beginning of International Education Week.
The number of Zimbabwean students in the U.S. peaked in 2002-03 at 2,186. Today, Zimbabwe is among the top 10 sending countries in Africa, ranking seventh after Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, and Ethiopia. In 2009, the US Embassy in Harare issued 400 new F-1 student visas.
U.S. Embassy Educational Advisor Rebecca Zeigler Mano attributes the decline to the economic crisis and political instability in Zimbabwe, as well as teacher strikes, inconsistent examination results, election related violence and hyperinflation during the 2007-08 academic years. Parents who previously could fund part or all of their children’s US education through Reserve Bank educational forex allowances and local salaries, could no longer do so during those years. Despite the decline last year, the number of Zimbabweans studying in the U.S. remains high in large part due to the U.S. Embassy educational advising services in Harare and in Bulawayo, as well as a big increase over the last 5 years in the number of Zimbabweans receiving scholarships to study in the US.
“We expect to see the number of Zimbabwean students studying in the US increase in the coming years as the Zimbabwean economy recovers with dollarization and an increasing number of parents can afford international educational options. Despite enduring a difficult period in its economy, Zimbabwe still boasts a strong education system with students from a wide variety of socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds who excel in academics, sport and co-curricular activities at top American colleges and universities,” stated Zeigler Mano.
“The youth are Zimbabwe’s most precious natural resources. It is crucial that Zimbabwe retains top teachers and improve upon the standards and resources in its private, mission and government schools and universities. The exposure that international education affords is crucial for preparing the country’s future leaders in all professions. A highly educated youth can help rebuild the county’s infrastructure and pave the way for a prosperous future for Zimbabwe,” she continued.
Interest in U.S. education has increased markedly this past year, as evidenced by the over 35,000 contacts the U.S. Embassy’s Educational Advising Center had in 2009-10 with Zimbabwean students, teachers and parents. American universities also remain very interested in recruiting top Zimbabwean students to join their campuses. Over 830 high school students in Harare attended the recent CIS Universities and Colleges Fair organized by the U.S. and Canadian Embassies in early November.
Open Doors also reported that 27 American students studied or researched in Zimbabwe in the 2008/09 academic year, an increase of 200 % from the previous academic year. This increase contrasts with the worldwide decline of 0.8%, with 260,327 American students studying abroad for academic credit during the academic year 2008/09. This increase in scholarly activity in Zimbabwe is a welcome addition to the international exchange landscape, signaling the confidence of American university students and academics in re-engaging with Zimbabwean higher education.
This year’s Open Doors report reveals that the total number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 3% to 690,923 during the 2009/10 academic year, a record high number of international students in the United States, making the U.S. the number one study destination for international students worldwide. This year’s growth was primarily driven by a 30% increase in Chinese student enrollment in the United States to a total of nearly 128,000 students, or more than 18% of the total international student population, making China the leading sending country. Indian students represent 15% of all international students in U.S. higher education with all African students representing 17% of international students.
The United States has one of the best and most comprehensive systems of higher education in the world. It boasts over 4,000 accredited and internationally recognized institutions of higher education, which welcome the diversity brought by international students on campuses. A significant number of American institutions offer need- and merit-based financial assistance to both undergraduate and graduate international students.
The US Embassy locally joins Embassies worldwide this week in celebrating International Education Week. As part of his proclamation for the week, President Obama stated, “All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”
Zimbabweans wishing to pursue studies in the U.S. can visit the EducationUSA Advising Center based at the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Eastgate Building in Harare or at the EducationUSA Advising Center based at the Bulawayo Public Library. Outside of the two main cities, students can visit the satellite advising center collections at Gweru Memorial Library, Turner Memorial Library and Africa University Libraries in Mutare and Mucheke Public Library in Masvingo.