Applications and first-time enrolments of foreign students to postgraduate courses in US universities have fallen for the second consecutive year, a ‘troubling’ shift, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

In their press release released on Thursday, the representative body of 500 US and Canadian institutes stated that the applications from potential foreign post-grad students declined by 4 percent, while the first-time enrolments to US institutes have dropped by one percent.

The Council of Graduate Schools is a non-profit higher education organisation and works for the advancement of graduate education and research. The main activities of the organisation include advocacy, global engagement and data analysis in connection to higher education issues and concerns in the US and the Canada.

The slump in foreign postgrad students enrolment show President Trump’s travel ban and changes in the visa policy have adversely affected international applications and first-time enrolment ratios in US universities, spiralling into a worrying downhill trend. “This is the first time we’ve seen declines across two consecutive years,” said CGS President Suzanne Ortega. “And while we think it’s too soon to consider this a trend, it is troubling.”

The CGS said the decline on the graduate level was driven by a six percent drop in applications and a two percent drop in the first-time enrolment to masters and certification programmes, which constitutes three-quarters of foreign student enrolments in the US. However, the first-time enrolment in doctoral degree programmes had increased by three percent, the CGS stated in their news release.

China and India remain the main suppliers of foreign graduate students at leading US institutions. However, applications and first-time graduate enrolment of Indian students dropped by 12 percent and two percent respectively in autumn 2018. Application to US graduate schools from Middle Eastern and North African students dropped by 14 percent in comparison to last year’s numbers, the CGS reported.

The CGS figures follow an earlier report by the Institute of International Education released in November. The report indicated a seven percent drop in the enrolment of foreign students at leading US institutes in 2017-18. US higher education leaders believe these declines are a by-product of increasing competition for international students from universities in other countries and inimical anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration.

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