International students ‘unwilling or unable’ to pay higher fees

Report from Canadian recruitment platform says greater share of searches are now for cheaper courses 

November 23, 2021
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Many international students are “unwilling or unable” to pay the same level of tuition fees that they would have considered before the pandemic, a new report on the latest trends in the sector suggests.

According to data from Canadian recruitment platform ApplyBoard, there has been a noticeable shift in applicant behaviour by fee level, with more than half of students this year searching for courses with fees of C$30,000 (£17,650) per year or lower.

This compares with 2019, when almost half of students using the platform used search filters to narrow their course search to programmes costing between C$76,000 and C$100,000.

ApplyBoard co-founder Meti Basiri said although there were likely to be multiple factors pushing students to consider cheaper courses, the economic impact of the pandemic was probably the most important.

Many of the countries that students were applying from did not have the benefit of the economic packages that governments in North America or Europe were able to use to support their populations, he added.

“Did Covid impact financially on families? I think the answer is yes. It had a huge impact. We think it’s more about affordability,” he said.

Mr Basiri added that although the growth in online and hybrid courses could also be a factor, he thought that did not necessarily reflect a change in student demand as the signs were that many still wanted a “highly in-person learning experience”.

“There are also other reasons for students go abroad,” he said, pointing to the networking benefits of studying on campus and post-study work opportunities as two examples. “Those [other factors] are still far more important than just the cost,” he said.

The ApplyBoard report says that it expects “the demand for post-graduation work opportunities” in particular “will only continue to grow in 2022 and beyond”.

“Institutions that are able to promote competitive work permit programmes and connect students with local employers will have a key advantage as the international education sector emerges from the pandemic,” it adds.

Elsewhere, the report appears to confirm positive news about international recruitment already coming out of key markets like the US. It claims that from March to October this year, applications through its platform rose by more than 300 per cent for institutions in the UK, 200 per cent for Canada and 750 per cent for the US compared to the same period in 2020.

“Over the course of 2021, ApplyBoard has seen more students searching for study abroad programs than ever before, and program deferrals have fallen significantly,” the report says.

“It’s clear that international students are eager to travel and study, and we’ve observed a healthy spike in new students enrolled for [autumn] 2021 and winter 2022 across destination markets.”

It also looks at how international recruitment may develop in the years ahead, saying that although China and India “will remain crucial”, there would be other countries “which have potential to reshape student recruitment” for anglophone nations, such as Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Indonesia.

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