WMU News

Number of international students reaches all-time high

Nov. 8, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's international student enrollment has surpassed 2,000 for the first time in history, marking a milestone in the University's growth as a globally engaged institution of higher learning.

A record total of 2,002 students from other countries are enrolled in degree programs this fall, exceeding the University goal of 2,000 students established in 1993.

The figure is up 20 percent from the 1,664 students enrolled in fall 2000 and 15 percent higher than the previous record of 1,738 students set in 1997, just before the Asian financial crisis. More than half of this year's class of 700 new international students are studying at the graduate level, while the remaining 315 are studying at the undergraduate level.

In addition, WMU's total international community has reached an all-time high of 2,277 people. The community is comprised of enrolled students, 195 optional internship participants and 80 students who are learning English through the Career English Language Center for International Students.

Having such a large number of citizens from other countries on campus is valuable in today's troubling times, says Dr. Howard J. Dooley, executive director of international affairs in the University's Office of International Affairs.

"It's crucial for Americans to appreciate other cultures, learn other languages and develop an understanding of global issues, and after the terrible events of Sept. 11, international education is especially vital," Dooley says.

"As U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright once said: 'Educational exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of communication can to the humanizing of international relations. Man's capacity for decent behavior seems to vary directly with his perception of others as individual humans with human motives and feelings, whereas his capacity for barbarism seems related to his perception of an adversary in abstract terms, as the embodiment, that is, of some evil design or ideology.' "

Dooley also reports that the increasing number of international students enrolled at WMU reflects the University's growing stature abroad.

"We're pleased and proud that the quality of a WMU education increasingly attracts students and scholars from all over the world," he says, noting that for the second consecutive year, enrolled international students come from more than 100 countries.

That barrier was first broken in 2000 when 105 nations were represented on campus, and the feat has been repeated again this year with 103 nations represented.

The most enrolled students this year come from India (525), Malaysia (231), Hong Kong (143), Pakistan (128), Japan (117), China (77), Thailand (70), the United Kingdom (62), Canada (47) and South Korea (46). But just a few years earlier in 1997, Malaysia led the list with nearly 700 students, while Japan and India were a distant second and third with 156 and 147 students, respectively. The same year, only one Pakistani student was taking fall classes on campus.

"The demographics are changing significantly in large part because our innovative twinning programs have raised WMU's profile in key countries and propelled a surge of international students toward the University," Dooley says.

The Office of International Affairs helped pioneer twinning programs, or 2+2 programs as they are commonly called, when it provided technical assistance to create a private college in Malaysia. The University first implemented twinning there at Sunway College in the late 1980s.

Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, the concept behind the successful Sunway program has become the primary external thrust of the 20-year-old international affairs office and has spawned similar offerings in China, India and Pakistan.

Twinning allows international students to take the first two years of undergraduate course work in their home countries, then complete the final two years at WMU or another U.S. institution. The courses offered abroad are clones of the University's courses and use identical syllabi, teaching formats and evaluation standards. In effect, participants can complete their freshman and sophomore years without ever leaving their home countries.

Faculty at partner institutions are recruited, paid and governed by the work rules of those institutions, but WMU sets standards for hiring faculty who teach in the twinning programs and monitors their effectiveness during regular visits and reviews of student work.

"We're the American leader in twinning programs, and we intend to remain on the cutting edge," Dooley vows.

Currently, the University operates a 1+1 pre-master of business administration program, created in 1998, at Rajagiri College in Cochin, India, plus five 2+2 undergraduate programs.

The program at Sunway College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was established in 1987 and offers curricula in business administration, computer science, mass communications, psychology, and pre-engineering and pre-science. With 470 students, it is by far WMU's largest 2+2 offering.

The program at Hong Kong Baptist University in Hong Kong, China, was established in 1995 and continued until earlier this year, when it became the basis for HKBU's new associate degree program. Student transfers to WMU continue to be facilitated through an articulation agreement.

The program at Christ College in Bangalore, India, was established in 1997 and offers curricula in business administration and computer science.

The program at Hindustan College in Madras, India, the center of India's automotive industry, was established in 1997 and offers a curriculum in pre-engineering.

The program at the Institute of Business Administration and Technology (Ibadat) in Islamabad, Pakistan, was established in 2000 and offers curricula in business administration, computer science and pre-engineering, all with an information technology focus.

Twinning has proven to be a win-win arrangement, according to Dooley.

"WMU is guaranteed a steady stream of well-prepared students who have been instructed entirely in English and are ready to begin their major sequences as juniors," he explains. "At the same time, partner institutions are strengthened by access to the latest American curricular developments, foreign countries save precious hard currency and the families of the WMU-bound students save 40 percent or more of the cost of an overseas degree."

The University has twinning programs in the first four countries on its list of the top-10 countries of origin for WMU international students. Asia is overwhelmingly the prime source area. Some 1,477 or 73 percent of the school's 2,002 enrolled international students come from the region. Europe in the second major source area with 188 students, followed by the Middle East and North Africa with 132.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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