Open Doors Report Shows Trends in Student Mobility between Portugal and the United States

International students in the U.S. top one million for the first time

More U.S. students came to Portugal for study abroad

Strong growth among students in STEM fields in both directions

The 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased by nearly seven percent to a record high of 1,043,839 students in the 2015/16 academic year, representing five percent of the total student population at U.S. institutions.  More than a third of these international students studied engineering, mathematics or computer science, and 14 percent engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT) in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) professions. Open Doors also reports that more than 312,000 U.S. students studied abroad during the 2015-16 academic year, an increase of nearly three percent over the previous year, and approximately a third of these students majored in STEM fields.  The Open Doors® report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The new report indicates there were 919 students from Portugal studying in the United States. The continued success in student mobility to the U.S. is significant because the proportion of the Portuguese population between the ages of 15-24 has declined in 20% over the past ten years. It also demonstrates the Portuguese students are seeking to study abroad more than ever despite challenging economic times.

Students from Portugal in the United States study primarily at the undergraduate level, with 32.6% percent at the graduate level in 2015/16, 45.4% percent enrolled at the undergraduate level, 11.4% percent pursuing optional practical training, and 10.6% percent in non-degree programs such as English language or short-term studies.

Even more remarkable is the dramatic increase in the 2014/2015 academic year in the number of U.S. students in Portugal, increasing from 319 to 423, representing 32.6 percent over the previous year.

On hearing the news of the report as it applies to Portugal, Ambassador Robert A. Sherman commented: “I am extremely pleased to see such a dramatic increase in international educational exchanges between Portugal and the United States.  We have been very committed to increasing these exchanges during my tenure here as Ambassador.   In the past two years, the number of Portuguese students in the United States has increased by five percent, and also the number of U.S. students in Portugal’s finest universities has more than doubled!  We know that international education is paramount in today’s world and that the best prepared are those students who study abroad, learn foreign languages and culture, and establish life-long ties that often lead to career and commercial opportunities.”

The U.S. Embassy has actively pursued the promotion of international exchanges, with several partners, including the Fulbright Commission and EducationUSA, and the Luso-American Foundation for Development (FLAD).  EducationUSA hosts a highly successful annual U.S. College Fair in Lisbon in collaboration with the Futuralia Expo which received 170 registered students to meet representatives from ten U.S. universities.  In conjunction with the Embassy, Fulbright assisted in organizing the Study in Portugal representation at the NAFSA conference in Denver in 2016, and is already preparing for the 2017 conference in Los Angeles.  The Embassy participated in the Study Abroad Fair in Lisbon, Porto and Madeira in October.  The Embassy sent three representatives to participate in the EducationUSA Leadership Institute in Private Sector Linkages last December in the United States.

With assistance from the Embassy, EducationUSA Lisbon organized an extensive technical exchange for the International Relations Advisors of ten Portuguese universities that included a series of workshops in Portugal and a visit to the United States.  EducationUSA started a Competitive College Club (CCC) cohort advising program in January with 15 junior-year high school students, and offered six Opportunity Funds grants with funds partially donated by FLAD.

The release of the new Open Doors data marks the celebration of International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

While the Open Doors findings indicate practical experience that can be applied in careers is a key draw for students studying abroad, the data also show that an increasing number of U.S. students—about 22,000 in 2015-16—participated in non-credit work, internships and volunteering abroad. Europe remains the top destination for U.S. students going abroad.



Open Doors  is published by the Institute of International Education, an independent not-for-profit organization with a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE has conducted an annual statistical survey of the international students in the United States since its founding in 1919 and in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since 1972. Open Doors  also reports on the number of international scholars at U.S. universities; international students enrolled in pre-academic Intensive English Programs; and on U.S. students studying abroad. Further details on the Open Doors  2016 surveys and their findings is on the Open Doors website, and the full 100+ page report will be available in January and can be ordered from IIE Books.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State leads a wide range of academic, professional, and cultural exchanges that include approximately 50,000 participants annually, including the flagship Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. ECA also sponsors the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships for U.S. undergraduates with financial need, the Critical Language Scholarship Program in support of U.S. foreign language study abroad, and the EducationUSA network of over 400 advising centers worldwide, which provides information to students around the globe who wish to study in the United States. For more information on the Department of State’s educational and cultural exchange activities, visit or contact


Media outlets interested in receiving more information should contact the press office at the U.S. Embassy, at 21 770 2436 or by e-mail to