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American ­niversities See Decline in Foreigners Earning Science Doctorates

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The number of doctorates in science and engineering granted by U.S. universities rose 1.9 percent last year, but the number of foreigners earning advanced degrees fell for the first time in more than five years. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that students with temporary visas earned 12,217 doctorates in science and engineering in 2009, down 3.5 percent from 12,686 a year ago. NSF's Mark K. Fiegener attributes the decline to tough economic conditions, but notes that data earlier in the decade pointed to slowed enrollment of international students at U.S. graduate schools.

The Bush and Obama administrations have stressed the importance of foreign enrollment to the future technological and economic competitiveness of the United States, but Congress has pushed back due to concerns about competition for scarce jobs. A 2005 report by the National Academies suggested ways to improve competitiveness, including granting more visas to foreign students in science and engineering, but a recently released follow-up report said that its key recommendations had not been addressed.

Women were largely responsible for the increase in doctorates in science and engineering in 2009, with a 5 percent increase in the number of women earning science and engineering doctorates to 13,593. Men earned 19,849, a decline of five doctorates from their 2008 total.

From The Chronicle of Higher Education
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