Most internationally mobile students ‘not deterred by pandemic’

Universities and policy makers must move quickly to exploit ‘small window of opportunity’, global survey suggests

May 4, 2020
Woman waiting in airport

Most would-be international students do not intend to let the pandemic scupper their goal of obtaining foreign qualifications, a survey has found.

But people are unwilling to put their study plans on hold indefinitely, according to the analysis by IDP Education’s market intelligence division, IDP Connect.

The survey of almost 6,900 prospective or current students found that 38 per cent were prepared to defer their studies until campus-based teaching recommenced. Deferral was a particularly popular option among postgraduates, with almost half reporting a “current mindset” to await the resumption of classes.

A further 31 per cent said they intended to start studying online until campus lockdowns ended, with another 10 per cent prepared to complete their entire programmes remotely. One in six said they were undecided, with just 3 per cent indicating that they intended to withdraw.

Around 5,000 of the respondents already had enrolment offers from overseas universities, with another 700 or so awaiting the outcomes of applications. Most responses came from India, China, Bangladesh and South-east Asia.

While the survey results were “somewhat reassuring”, IDP Connect stressed the need for providers and policy makers to act quickly. “Governments, community services and the international education sector will need to come together to find solutions that enable students to arrive in-country and commence face-to-face studies soon,” said CEO Simon Emmett.

Of the respondents who said they planned to defer, more than half said they would do so for a year at the most. Forty-one per cent said they would only wait for six months, with 18 per cent prepared to shelve their plans for just three months before cancelling enrolments or exploring other options.

Of the five anglophone study destination countries, New Zealand was best regarded in terms of safety and its handling of the coronavirus. Canada easily earned top points for student welfare policies and was also considered the most economically stable nation with the least restrictive travel policies.

Australia ranked third on most of these indicators, with the UK fourth and the US last. IDP said Canada was in “poll position” to absorb pent-up demand for study abroad, with the government’s actions to date earning widespread approval, and its biggest problem would be finding enough places.

“It must ensure that there is adequate capacity in both the Fall and January intakes if this demand is to be realised,” Mr Emmett warned.

He said New Zealand had won admiration for its handling of the crisis, but risked losing many enrolments if other countries outpaced it in opening their borders to international students. Australia was regarded as a relatively safe destination but faced increased competition as providers elsewhere looked to defer their programme start dates until next January.

Mr Emmett said that while demand for UK courses remained strong, students were concerned about their wellbeing and the prospects of starting face-to-face classes any time soon.

“The research showed international students are determined to study in the UK. However, the sector and governing authorities will need to find solutions that allow returning and new students to commence their studies on campus safely in January 2021.”

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

If only 41% of the students surveyed responded that they will start their course in September, it is rather difficult to see how one can then draw the conclusion that "Most internationally mobile students ‘not deterred by pandemic’". If you are thinking about deferring for a year then you clearly have been deterred from starting a course this year.
This article does not make sense, only 6900 approx. students (or are they would be students?) interviewed among the existing 800,000 that’s exists international students currently enrolled just in Australia and apparently these were interviewed in their home countries in, Indian, china, Bangladesh etc., begs the question, were these self-satisfying and self-fulfilling interviews by education agents’ commissions by the universities themselves or by any disinterested unprejudiced party conducting a scientific statistical poll. And even if they respond that their plans have not changed what difference does it make to the plans of the supposed destination countries? Or does the latter plans do not matter? Do those destination countries have a plan for themselves and how many students they can take in if at all any, amidst the covid crisis which by the way has not ended yet and while semester 2 in Australia still remains in doubt. If there is no supply or reduced supply then it does not matter what the customer wants and plans! Most Anglophone countries will reduce immigration and by corollary student intake by 80 to 90 per cent at least if not more. The food supply chain is at breaking point in many countries, several other industries including aviation has pretty much vanished in some countries and the millions sand millions of jobless in Anglophone countries mean those countries will have to look after their own and will plan according to their citizens mandate and needs and not on the desires and plans of prospective international students. Current international students here in Australia are lining up at food banks and charities and perhaps their plight should drill some common sense to those prospective students with plans to study overseas.

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