The University of Michigan surged to No. 10 in a ranking of U.S. schools with the most students studying abroad in 2011-12 — a big jump from the No. 16 spot last year, a key survey of global education trends said Monday.
The strong growth reflects U-M’s ongoing commitment to helping students go overseas. The university had 2,060 students studying abroad in 2011-12 — a 6 percent increase from 1,946 in the previous period, according to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit group.
Education-abroad experiences provide immense value to students, said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education.
“These global engagements help students develop capabilities that cannot be developed through the traditional classroom environment,” Holloway said. “They help students observe and understand people from other cultures. They also help students become more flexible, persistent and self-reliant decision makers.”
The most popular destinations for U-M students studying abroad were Spain (312 students), Italy (188), Germany (183), United Kingdom (148), China (137) and France (130).
Holloway added that U-M’s expansion in education abroad has come largely in the professional schools, such as engineering and business, as well as in the fine arts. This illustrates the value of tailoring programs to the students’ interests.
The growth has also been greatly facilitated by creating the right infrastructure to manage the programs, Holloway said. Such infrastructure includes data systems that allow students to easily search for programs that fit their needs. The same systems enable administrators to manage the process — from program selection to departure and return.
“The right data systems allow us to track thousands of travelers abroad and to communicate with them when we need to,” Holloway said.
Raising money for study-abroad scholarships and other student support is key to the recently launched Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion.
In October, President Mary Sue Coleman and her husband, Kenneth, announced their gift of $1 million for global scholarships to U-M students.
The Open Doors Report also said that for the second straight year, U-M ranked No. 8 in the nation for the size of its international student body. The university had 6,827 students from abroad in 2012-13, a 7 percent increase from the 6,382 in the previous period.
“International students diversify the campus environment in important ways,” Holloway said. “They allow domestic students to interact with and learn from others who are very different from themselves, while providing the international students with an important cross-cultural experience and challenge.”