Would-be international students ‘prefer to study in-person at home’

THE survey finds that prospective mobile students are still reluctant to study online with an overseas university

October 26, 2020
face to face class

Less than a third of prospective international students believe that online learning at an overseas university would be better than studying face-to-face in their home country, with US-bound students even less likely to be in favour of remote teaching, according to Times Higher Education research.

The survey of 659 prospective international students, conducted this month by THE’s consultancy team, found that 49 per cent of respondents thought online learning at an institution overseas would be a worthwhile experience. However, only 32 per cent agreed that it would be better than taking in-person classes at home, against 49 per cent who disagreed.

But the global figure masks significant country differences. Just 25 per cent of those who had intended to study in the US agreed that studying online at an international university would be better (compared to 57 per cent who disagreed). In contrast, students who were planning to study in the UK were almost split down the middle, with 38 per cent agreeing and 40 per cent disagreeing.

The study found that 37 per cent of respondents had delayed their overseas study plans because of Covid-19, 16 per cent had changed them, and 8 per cent had cancelled altogether. Almost two-fifths (39 per cent) said that their plans were unaffected by the pandemic. The majority of survey respondents (61 per cent) were seeking postgraduate study.

Most of those who had cancelled their study-abroad plans said that they now planned to study in their home country (56 per cent), while others said that they were assessing their options (27 per cent) or might apply to university once the pandemic was over (21 per cent).

Of those who had changed their plans, 53 per cent said that they were now planning to study in a different country and 31 per cent said that they were planning to study at a different university. Just 6 per cent said they were going to study remotely.

Meanwhile, almost a third (30 per cent) of those who had delayed their overseas study plans said that they had deferred their application or start date indefinitely or until the pandemic is over, while 35 per cent said that they had delayed until next academic year and 20 per cent had delayed until January 2021.

Mark Tweddle, senior higher education consultant at THE, said “the pandemic had accelerated the movement of teaching online that had begun prior to the physical restrictions now in place, but our study suggests universities really have to sell the experience of online learning to international students as an alternative to face-to-face learning”.

But he added that the share of students delaying their plans suggests that there is “pent-up demand building” for overseas study and next year there may be a “boom of international students” on campuses.


If you would like to discuss the results of this survey further or find out more about THE’s student panel, please contact Mark Tweddle at Mark.Tweddle@timeshighereducation.com


Print headline: Remote attractions: would-be international students ‘prefer to study in-person at home’

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Reader's comments (1)

This is not that surprising. Having been a foreign student myself, one of the biggest draws of being abroad is the interaction with people either from the host country or other foreign students. This richness in experience and learning is difficult to replicate online.