According to a recent report published by the Chronicle of Higher Education, women are. The report argues that “[w]omen appear to be much more likely than men to choose to study abroad because of significant gender-based differences in how students are influenced by their backgrounds, academic environments, and social interactions”.
To unpack that a notion a bit, the author of the Chronicle article goes on to say:
Having highly educated parents appeared to make women more likely to intend to study abroad, but it did not have any effect on men’s intentions, reflecting the broader observation among researchers that women are more likely to make college-going decisions based on their parents’ preferences.
Similarly, taking classes that focus on human diversity and differences appeared to leave women more likely to intend to study abroad but did not have an impact on men, suggesting that, just as women are more influenced by their parents than are men, they may be more influenced by faculty members or, at least, the courses that faculty members teach.
Based on these findings, the authors of the report argue that international recruiters “need to craft targeted marketing strategies that recognize and account for key differences between women and men”.
The study, conducted by researchers for the University of Iowa’s Center for Research on Undergraduate Education, focused on “some 2,800 students at 19 four-year and two-year colleges and universities”. Thus, the research may speak specifically to gender differences with regard to American students studying abroad. To help riddle out this problem, I compared the University of Iowa’s findings with a recent survey conducted by ICEF which polled 348 language schools in 43 countries about student demographics and trends. The survey’s results are in close alignment with the study conducted by the U of I, with 36% of respondents saying they have a 50/50 split between men and women, and 39% reporting a ratio of 40/60 men to women.
There are some notable differences between the two reports. The former is more objective and focuses exclusively on undergraduate students. The latter relies heavily on casual observation and polls administrators of language institutes which may or may not be in partnership with an undergraduate exchange program. The advantage to comparing these studies, though, is that it paints a broader picture of study abroad (at the risk of compromising specific causes for the trends, of course).
A.C.E. was one of those language institutes polled by ICEF. A glance at our 2009 enrollment report (which combines statistics from both our Language Institutes) shows a student body of roughly 60% men and 40% women. It would seem, then, that a number of other language schools may want to know how we do it. Meanwhile, we’ll be working to create a more agreeable 50/50 split.