International student drivers ‘back to pre-pandemic norms’

Covid a memory in most regions as cost, quality, work and migration opportunities guide study destination choices

八月 9, 2022
Madrid, Spain; 09-25-2021 Side view of an Airbus A330 aircraft of the Spanish airline Iberia during the take-off maneuve at Madrid Barajas airport with the famous Madrid office tower
Source: iStock

Price and quality have resurfaced as the dominant factors influencing choice of overseas study destination, as the pandemic relaxes its chokehold on international student flows.

A survey of over 700 education agents around the globe has revealed decision processes that mirror those before the pandemic. Covid-19 and its hangover effects on visa and flight availability are no longer prime considerations of would-be students in most parts of the world.

Course cost and quality head the list of factors now influencing destination choice, followed by employment rights during and after study and opportunities for permanent migration.

Coronavirus remains an overriding concern only in China and parts of south-east Asia.

Australian-headquartered education services company Navitas, which conducted the survey, said cost was the first- or second-order consideration everywhere except China. Work opportunities were an important “corollary”, offering not only valuable work experience but also income to “defray” study costs.

Post-study employment and migration were also becoming “part and parcel of the international study experience”, as would-be students prioritised graduate work or permanent migration possibilities – “and very often both”.

The survey, the fifth conducted with Navitas’ network of global agents since the Covid-19 outbreak, found that safety and security only ranked as a key issue in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

THE Campus resource: In support of international students’ journey through higher education

Host countries’ quality of life was also a lower order consideration in most regions, rated the ninth most important issue overall – although it ranked a more compelling sixth in Latin America, which was also the only region where opportunities to work while studying were the top decision-making factor.

Latin-American students “tend to place high value on improving their English-language skills, and having an enjoyable experience while doing so”, said Omid Honari, a Navitas sales director. “Many of these students tend to have limited financial support from their families.”

Work rights while studying were also a top consideration in the big south-east Asian nations of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Students in higher income neighbours Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei were more motivated by institutional ranking – a characteristic they shared with their counterparts in Europe, where ranking was the most important consideration after cost and course quality. Institutional ranking was also the third-top factor in China.

The survey revealed other parallels. Access to post-study work rights was the most important destination-influencing factor in both south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, followed by cost, work opportunities during study, prospects for permanent migration and quality of education.

Navitas sales director for South Asia, Simon Jacobs, said the hunger for post-study work rights was “deeply ingrained” across the region and students tended to target “friendly” options – of which many currently abounded.

“Historically, we’ve seen student flows dictated by the post-study work policy of the various destinations,” he said. “It is rare for the main study destinations to all have attractive post-study work policies at the same time. [This] has resulted in the comparatively large outbound volumes that we’re currently experiencing.”



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