The Institute of International Education ranked the University of Wisconsin among the top 10 in the nation for study abroad programs, UW officials announced Tuesday.

UW is ranked eighth nationally overall for study abroad programs, while the year-long programs ranked sixth and semester-long programs ranked fourth nationally, said Director of International Academic Programs Robert Howell.

The Institute of International Education releases a report every year based on submissions from universities of the actual number of students who studied abroad from that particular university, Howell said. The ranks are based on quantity of students who attend the programs, not quality of the programs.

In the 2008-2009 academic year, 2,230 students studied abroad, and that number has the potential to increase due to the demand from companies and organizations for students who are intellectually curious and have experience in the changing world, said Gilles Bousquet, a dean in the Division of International Studies.

Howell said students want to go overseas now more than ever.

“Students are increasingly coming to look at study abroad programs as an integral part of education,” Howell said. “At UW the percent of students studying abroad increased by less than 1 percent, however, it’s gone down in a lot of places. ”

The International Studies department has two goals: Making China the number one destination for study abroad and seeing 50 percent of the student body at UW have an international experience by 2020, Bousquet said.

“Right now 22 percent of the graduating class goes abroad,” Bousquet said. “We will not be satisfied until we are No. 1 in the nation for study aboard programs.”

Studying abroad is a life changing experience, Bousquet said, because students come back with a changed outlook on the world and new goals.

These longer terms allow the student to see and experience culture for them, something that is going to someday be a requirement for professionals, Howell said.

“We are graduating students who have a high level of global competence and ability to operate in cultures other than their own,” Howell said. “Employers are looking for people who can live and work across cultures.”

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