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The number of foreign graduate students joining top US research institutions has plummeted during the past 12 months, according to the US Council of Graduate Schools. Admissions of foreign students to life sciences programmes fell by 19 per cent, while numbers taking up study in physical and earth sciences fell by 17 per cent.

The biggest decrease is in admissions of Chinese students, numbers of whom joining graduate programmes in the United States have fallen by one-third since 2003. The number of Indian admissions has fallen by about 20 per cent in the same period.

Red tape and delays caused by heightened security since 11 September 2001 are being blamed for the decrease. Government officials claim to have made recent improvements to the security clearance procedures and are hoping to ease the visa application process for scientists and students. But the international office of the US National Academy of Sciences is still receiving more than 100 complaints each month from scientists facing delays.

Link to full news story in Nature

Reference: Nature 431, 231 (2004)