CWRU ranks among nation’s top institutions for percentage of undergraduates who study abroad

Student participation has more than doubled since 2010-11 school year

CWRU student on study abroad tripFor the first time in its history, Case Western Reserve ranks among the nation’s top 40 doctorate-granting universities in the percentage of its undergraduates studying abroad, according to a new report.

With nearly 45 percent of its undergraduates studying abroad in academic year 2013-14, Case Western Reserve tied for the 20th spot with Boston University in the “Open Doors 2015 Report on International Educational Exchange.” The publication annually names the top 40 doctorate-granting universities; this year marks Case Western Reserve’s first-ever appearance on the list.

“This ranking reflects an enormous amount of effort across our entire university,” said Provost and Executive Vice President W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III. “I commend and thank everyone in the Center for International Affairs, led by David Fleshler, as well as all of the faculty, staff, students and alumni who have supported these global initiatives.”

Pepperdine, with 86.5 percent of its undergraduates studying abroad, took the top spot, while University Athletic Association (UAA) peer New York University, with 65.3 percent, placed fifth. Other UUA member schools ranked—Brandeis University (25th), Emory University (28th), the University of Chicago (33rd) and Washington University in St. Louis (27th)—all trailed Case Western Reserve. The other two UAA institutions, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Rochester, did not appear in the top 40 schools on the list.

“Case Western Reserve’s top-​20 national study-abroad ranking ​is validation—from perhaps the most highly respected international education organization—of the institution’s success in internationalizing​ our campus,” said Fleshler, associate provost for international affairs.​ “This achievement demonstrates a shift in ​the university’s culture—from one that acknowledged study abroad to one that expects our students to study abroad.”

The annual “Open Doors” report is published through a partnership between the not-for-profit Institute of International Education (IIE) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The report’s release Monday began International Education Week (Nov. 16-20).

Increasing the internationalization of the campus was a key priority of Case Western Reserve’s 2008 strategic plan, Forward Thinking. Part of implementing that goal involved increasing growing undergraduate enrollment, as well as increasing opportunities for U.S. students to spend time learning in other countries. In 2009, the university appointed Fleshler to the newly created role of associate provost, and the Center for International Affairs then followed.

Since 2007, the proportion of international undergraduates on campus has nearly quadrupled. Since 2010, study abroad participation has more than doubled, from 19 percent to nearly 45 percent in 2013-2014.

“Studying abroad not only provides an understanding of another culture and a perspective on our own, it is also a boost as students are beginning their careers,” Fleshler said. “The experience is often the difference in a student landing his or her first job, because employers like to see students who can successfully navigate new and challenging environments.”  ​

The 2015 Open Doors Report found that these trends also reflect nationwide developments in higher education.

  • The number of American students studying abroad increased 5 percent in 2013-14, the highest growth rate since before the 2008 economic downturn. While study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the last two decades, reaching a new high of 304,467, only about 10 percent of U.S. students study abroad before graduating from college.
  • The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities had the highest rate of growth in 35 years, increasing 10 percent to a record 974,926 students in the 2014-15 academic year.
  • American students majoring in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) represent 23 percent of study abroad students, slightly outnumbering those in business and management (20 percent) and the social sciences (19 percent).