The rapid development of higher education in countries such as China will not undermine the trend for students there to study in the US and other countries overseas, according to the president of the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE). Visiting Hong Kong last week, Allan Goodman noted the huge shortage of university places in the region. 'I believe by 2020 or 2025, we will all have to be educating many more students than we have seats for,' he said. Countries would benefit from being open and having international students. Exposure to other cultures was important to students worldwide. 'Knowledge is global,' he said, 'and the work environment is going to be global. China cannot educate all its people, neither can India. They will need to take advantage of opportunities in Hong Kong or the US.' The US had the capacity to double its intake of foreign students from the current 600,000, he added. India was the top source of foreign students for the country last year, providing 79,736. China followed in second place with 61,765 students, according to IIE statistics. Dr Goodman sought to dispel the belief that it was difficult to obtain a visa to study in the US. Playing down reports of falling number of applications for top universities, he said US consulates had acted to ease the visa application process. 'In many countries, the acceptance rate is as high now as it was before September 11,' he said. 'In most countries like Hong Kong, 90 per cent of the students who applied got the visa approved. The situation has improved.' But rising university tuition fees could be a deterrent, he conceded. The average costs for state and private universities were approaching US$20,000 and $40,000 a year respectively. He remained convinced, though, that the number of students studying abroad in the coming decade would grow considerably. Many of those, he said, were likely to head for the US, drawn by its vast educational opportunities.