Penn State remains a top university for international education

The 2020 Open Doors report shows Penn State among the top for international students, study abroad

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State continued its strong standing as one of the top 15 U.S. institutions hosting international students in 2019-20, with 9,244 students at the University Park campus, in addition to more across the commonwealth, according to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) 2020 Open Doors report. Penn State remained the number one receiving institution in Pennsylvania and 3rd in the Big Ten. 

Penn State also ranked 10th in terms of sending students abroad, sending 2,672 University Park students abroad in 2018-19 as well as several hundred more from campuses across the commonwealth. This marks a ten-place jump over the previous year, when Penn State ranked 20th in the nation. Penn State also ranks 3rd in the Big Ten in study abroad numbers. 

Of note, Penn State ranked 5th in the nation in mid-length study abroad experiences, sending 1,182 students abroad on such programs. Mid-length duration study abroad consists of programs lasting a quarter-term or semester in length.

“For a large institution which sends thousands of students abroad, offering more short-term programs is typically an accessible and feasible way to promote an increase in participation,” said Brian Brubaker, director of education abroad in the Office of Global Programs. “However, Penn State has managed to consistently send a significant number of its students abroad on semester programs (44% in 2018-19 — or nearly half).” 

Although duration is not a single attribute defining an impactful study abroad experience, it is notable that such a large percentage of students choose this modality.  Nationally, according to Open Doors, just 32.5% of students studied abroad for one semester or one quarter for the 2018-19 academic year. 

“Penn State is thrilled to remain among the top 15 institutions in the United States for hosting international students and to be recognized as a top ten institution nationally for giving students the opportunity to study abroad,” said Roger Brindley, vice provost for global programs. “We are only one of three public institutions in the United States in the top 15 in both international student and study abroad rankings, underlying the Penn State commitment to being a global leader in higher education and a world-class global Land-grant university.”  

IIE’s Open Doors report, it should be noted, uses data provided in 2019. The statistics in the report this year will not reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“While these numbers reflect a pre-pandemic reality, the work of building a truly global university community has not stopped during COVID-19, and we will look to extend access to global student success and build on these impressive 2018-19 commitments when global travel is safe again,” added Brindley. 

The Open Doors report is published annually by the Institute of International Education, an independent not-for-profit organization with a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide, and more than 1,200 member institutions. 

The release of the report comes during International Education Week (IEW), a joint, annual initiative of the U.S. Department of State and Department of Education that aims to promote international understanding and build support for international educational exchange by encouraging the development of programs that prepare Americans to live and work in a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study in the United States. Penn State’s Office of Global Programs is hosting a week of events during IEW. To learn more or register, visit

To read the full report, visit IIE’s website at


IIE's Open Doors report is released annually. Credit: Institute of International EducationAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated November 19, 2020