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Counting Chinese STEM students in the U.S.

Reproduced from a CSET report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Chinese students make up 16%of all graduate STEM students in the U.S. and 2% of undergraduate STEM students, per a new report from Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.


The big picture: Concerns about intellectual property theft and foreign influence in U.S. research have led to calls to limit what Chinese students can study in the U.S.

  • At the same time, others argue U.S. universities benefit financially and, ultimately, the country benefits economically from the contributions of students from China.
  • "These conversations have been hampered by a lack of granular data on the number of enrolled Chinese students by field and degree level," CSET's Jacob Feldgoise and Remco Zwetsloot write.

What they found: Using four different datasets, the researchers report there are "around 46,000 Chinese undergraduates, an estimated 40,000 master’s students, and an estimated 36,000 Ph.D. students" in STEM fields in the U.S.

  • The percentage of Chinese students is lower than an earlier government report's estimate that 25% of STEM graduate students in the U.S. were Chinese nationals.
  • Yes, but: The new estimates still don't give a certain picture, says Zwetsloot, "driving home the need for much better U.S. government data collection and dissemination on these questions."

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