University News

Carolina ranked 11th among US universities for study abroad

The 2022 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange ranked Carolina 5th for year-long study abroad programs and 10th for semester-long study abroad programs.

Old Well on UNC's campus at autumn.
Fall scenes of the Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranked 11th for the number of students earning credit for study abroad in the Institute of International Education’s 2022 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. The report presents comprehensive data on international students and scholars at U.S higher education institutions, as well as data on U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit.

According to Open Doors, the overall percentage of U.S. students studying abroad decreased by 91% over the previous cycle reported, which was less than half of the last complete pre-pandemic report of 2018-2019. However, the report shows early signs of a return to study abroad, with a 523% increase in students going abroad in summer 2021 alone.

Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs, attributes Carolina’s high ranking to the University’s successful efforts to manage student health and safety risks at carefully selected sites so that Carolina students could benefit from study abroad throughout most of the pandemic.

“When other universities restarted study abroad, it was really rocky for many of them, but that wasn’t our experience,” said Stephenson. “We relied on trusted partners to continue offering study abroad programming safely with steady increases each semester. That approach allowed us to really deliver for our students.”

This fall participation in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Study Abroad Office programs is reaching 110% of pre-pandemic levels, and by the end of the year, more than 2,000 are expected to study abroad—more than any previous year.

Carolina’s Study Abroad Office and Global Programs Offices of Kenan-Flagler Business School were the only two UNC-Chapel Hill units that continued study abroad activity through the pandemic. In addition to coordinating with trusted partners, they worked to reduce barriers to participation in other ways.

“Student health and safety was of utmost importance to us when we re-opened study abroad,” said Jason Kinnear, associate dean of study abroad and exchanges in the Study Abroad Office. “Through cross-campus collaboration, we quickly pivoted to implement new risk management methods and systems.”

UNC-Chapel Hill ranked 5th for long-term (year-long) study abroad programs and 10th for mid-length (semester-long) study abroad programs among doctorate-granting universities.

Institutions also created new ways for students to access global learning opportunities online. Carolina, for example, offered virtual study abroad programs, virtual internships and virtual research courses and supported faculty in introducing Collaborative Online International Learning courses.

The report also reflected a 7.5% increase in overall international student enrollment in the United States for the 2021-2022 academic year. Carolina experienced a 17.5% increase in international student enrollment over the same period with 2,501 students, the highest annual total for the University on record.

The Open Doors report was released during International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. This year’s theme was Open for Opportunity.