UW study abroad numbers jump to top 10

Record numbers of University of Wisconsin-Madison students are earning some of their academic credit abroad, an increase that far exceeds the national average. What’s more, they are choosing to study in previously nontraditional destinations such as China and India and countries in Central and Latin America.

UW-Madison ranks 10th among U.S. research universities for overall study abroad participation during the 2006-07 academic year, according to the annual Open Doors report, released Nov. 17 by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in conjunction with International Education Week.

In 2005-06, UW-Madison ranked 17th.

Students receiving credit for studying abroad in 2006-07 numbered 1,846, up from 1,616 students in 2005-06 – an increase of 14 percent. Nationally, the number of Americans studying abroad increased by 8 percent.

Consistent with national trends, European countries are still in the top four most popular destinations for UW-Madison students. Fifth on the list for the first time, however, is China, where 122 UW-Madison students studied in 2006-07. China has also moved into fifth place nationwide.

The campus showed particular success in yearlong program participation, ranking second in 2006-07 (tied with University of California, Santa Barbara) versus fourth in 2005-06. For semester-long program participation, UW-Madison now ranks fourth, up from fifth the previous year.

In 2006-07, 17 percent of UW-Madison undergraduates studied abroad.

Robert Howell, professor in the Department of German and director of International Academic Programs, the largest and central study abroad office on campus, says the impressive numbers indicates that “students increasingly see study abroad as an integral part of their education.”

And the trend works both ways: UW-Madison has remained in the top 20 of research universities for numbers of international students enrolled, hosting almost 4,000 students from more than 100 countries in 2006-07.

Gilles Bousquet, dean of the Division of International Studies, also credits the determination of administration and faculty with this positive shift, saying they have been steadfast in ensuring that students – whatever their major – graduate with the skills to live in and work in a global environment.

“We’re seeing great success in study abroad participation – in the social sciences, the humanities and arts, but also more broadly in professional schools like business and engineering that are setting ambitious goals,” Bousquet says. “This is a clear shift in educational trends, reflecting a change in global markets.”

Howell adds, “We expect study abroad participation to continue to grow over the long term, given the growing awareness that all major challenges we face are at some level global challenges. We increasingly hear from potential employers that they are looking for globally competent employees: Study abroad is a major component of global competence.”

More than 20,000 UW-Madison students have studied abroad since the university offered its first study abroad program in 1959.

For a historical perspective, see “‘I’ll Remember This Trip’: Fifty Years of Study Abroad,” published last September by the Division of International Studies and written by Joan A. Raducha, former associate dean in the Division of International Studies and director of International Academic Programs. Visit to learn more.

View the complete IIE Open Doors report at