Cal Poly Ranks Second Nationally in Study Abroad Survey

University is lauded for total numbers of students and is best U.S. master’s-level school among students studying abroad on mid-length programs 

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly students are increasingly opting to study abroad, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual statistical survey of U.S. campuses for the 2018-19 academic year.

“Cal Poly has made top rankings — for the second year in a row — for master’s institutions for the total number of students we sent abroad in 2018-19 and for the number of students sent on mid-length study abroad programs that year,” said Cari Vanderkar, Cal Poly’s senior international officer and assistant vice provost for international programs. “While nationally about one in 10 U.S. undergraduates study abroad by the time of graduation, at Cal Poly about one in four undergraduate students studied abroad by the time of graduation in 2018-19.”

The Institute of International Education is the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the U.S. It has conducted the Open Doors Report annual survey since 1919; since the early 1970s, it has been aided by support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Open Doors surveys about 2,000 U.S. universities and colleges with study abroad programs. 

Since 2000, Cal Poly has ranked as a top sender in the nation among master’s level universities for internationally bound students.

In 2018-19 year, the most current numbers available, Cal Poly sent 1,216 students — 556 seniors and 511 juniors — abroad to 44 nations. Participation in study abroad has increased nearly 50 percent over the past five years. Cal Poly had 813 students participate in the 2013-14 academic year. Over the past 15 years, Cal Poly has seen participation in study abroad programs increase by nearly 116 percent, rising from 563 in 2003-04.

In the past two decades, the university also has ranked in the top 10 among those who study abroad for long-term (an academic year) and short-term durations of three months or less. And for mid-length programs, which run for a semester or a quarter, Cal Poly ranked first in the nation two years in a row. It has ranked in the top eight since 2004-05.

In the latest survey, Cal Poly was the top U.S. master’s university for mid-programs, with 728 students, an increase of nearly 78 percent over the 2013-14 survey. Last year, the university was also first in the nation with 681 students.

Cal Poly’s vision for internationalization is to provide foundational experiential learning, teaching, service and scholarship opportunities at home and abroad that will best equip graduates and the campus community at large to solve complex global challenges sustainably, ethically and inclusively. 

“International education provides rich opportunities for students to enhance their studies and to prepare for work and life in a global society,” Vanderkar said. “In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue to provide opportunities for students to gain global competencies, either through virtual exchange platforms or through future abroad opportunities. As indicated in our vision statement, Learn by Doing in a global context drives students to critically evaluate themselves, their own cultures, their values and their place in the world. It fuels informed global systems-thinkers and -doers and activates Cal Poly students to be positive forces in the world.”

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About Open Doors
Open Doors is published by the Institute of International Education, which has conducted an annual statistical survey on international students in the U.S. 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 and international students enrolled in pre-academic intensive English programs. Additional details on the Open Doors 2018 surveys and findings are on the Open Doors website.

About the Institute of International Education 
IIE works to build more peaceful and equitable societies by advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity. As a not-for-profit with 18 offices and affiliates worldwide, IIE collaborates with a range of corporate, government and foundation partners across the globe to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs. Visit

About the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs builds relations between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen U.S. national security, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. ECA sponsors the flagship Fulbright Program, 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 more than 400 advising centers worldwide. More online

Contact: Cari Vanderkar

November 18, 2020

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