International students ‘more likely to choose US’ under Biden

Survey finds that country has become more attractive to prospective overseas students since presidential election

March 2, 2021
Times Square tribute to president-elect Joe Biden
Source: iStock

Prospective international students’ perception of the US has improved following the 2020 presidential election, with two-thirds of respondents to a survey saying they are now more likely to study there.   

survey of more than 800 prospective international students who were interested in studying in the US found that 76 per cent said their perception of the country was “better” following the election of Joe Biden, while 67 per cent said they were more likely to study there following the election result. Just over a quarter (27 per cent) said there was no change to their likelihood to study in the US, while only 5 per cent said they were less likely to study there, according to the research from student recruitment firm IDP Connect.

When asked how the new administration would affect nine key factors, respondents expected all of them to improve, on average, with welfare of international students, safety of citizens and visitors, and post-study work visa policies seen as potentially the biggest areas of improvement.

However, many students indicated that they were still considering other destinations. Half of respondents said they were also looking at Canada, while 41 per cent were interested in the UK and 28 per cent in Australia. Just 16 per cent said they were not considering universities outside the US.

Students were asked to indicate how closely they followed US politics. They were most likely to say they had a low awareness (42 per cent), followed by a moderate awareness (34 per cent). Of the 13 per cent of students who said they had a high awareness of US politics, 86 per cent reported a better perception of the US following the election.

Meanwhile almost three-quarters of prospective students said they thought the new administration would positively affect their home country. The survey respondents came from more than 40 countries, although over half were from India. The majority were looking to study a postgraduate programme and the highest share (38 per cent) expected to start a course between August and October 2021.

Simon Emmett, chief executive of IDP Connect, said the research was a reminder that students are tuned into global political discussions.

“Since the election in November 2020, we’ve seen higher search activity for the US, with the US now overtaking the UK in regard to international student search volumes,” he said.

“While the new administration has a more welcoming stance towards international students than the predecessor, it will be interesting to see if student perceptions of the US as a study destination continue to improve over the long-term.”

Mr Emmett added that US universities “should be looking at their recruitment strategies and practices to ensure they capture this momentum and support students in their decision-making process”.

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