At the same and unsurprisingly, interest in online and other ‘flexible’ study modes grew informed by the Covid-19 pandemic, while a decline in interest in the US and Australia as destinations was recorded, the report by international education company Studyportals. The research relied on analysis of data from millions of student online search further indicates.
While interest in masters grew, that of PhD, short courses and preparatory courses declined. A similar downward trend was noted in mining, oil & gas courses. This contrasted to a notable growth in environmental economics & policy degree programs, which the report attributed to a possible increased interest in sustainability related studies.
“Whether the changes in student interest are a temporary outcome of current events or indicators of a long-term trend, it is important to monitor student preferences on a regular basis,” the report observes.
In terms of destinations the US and Australia witnessed a relative decline as the most preferred study countries accelerated, with Canada replacing the US as the most sought after destination in the world.
“We saw a decline in student interest for the US before the pandemic during the Trump administration, unwelcoming visa policies and anti-immigration rhetoric put a dampener on demand for US programs,” Cara Skikne, senior editor at Studyportals told The PIE News.
“The decline of international students to the US is not a temporary change but a trend”
“The decline of international students to the US is not a temporary change but a trend. Canada makes it very easy to stay in Canada to work, and the US doesn’t,” added Margaret Cook, Studyportals senior vice president.
The same was the trend with regard to Australia attributable to the long ban on entry to the country at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. A new report from IDP Education was deemed “sobering reading” for Australian universities, also recording that Canada is currently the top destination of choice for students.
However, it added that the US is rebounding, with 20% of students indicating it is their preferred destination.
One of the most significant changes the StudyPortals observed was an increase in interest in studying abroad in emerging source countries including Turkey, that rose four ranks to position four. Iran rose five positions to position three, and Nigeria rose two positions taking over the second position worldwide. All these were in comparison to positions held in 2018.
“Turkey, Nigeria and Iran face critical shortages of university spaces, the demand-supply gap in higher education may well create opportunities for new universities or TNE, although other factors should also be considered,” Skikne added.
Other countries that grew in prominence as student sources include Vietnam which gained 22 positions to stand at position 11 and Sri Lanka in position 12, rising 17 places. Globally however, India remained number one student source.
Student preferences also changed where cyber security, machine learning, digital marketing, digital communication, artificial intelligence and UX design increased in popularity.
“This reflects the emerging trend of the world becoming more digital with an emphasis on a user-centred approach,” it adds.
It notes however that the analysis does not capture data from regions where access to the internet is curtailed, observing that such countries including China and North Korea are very under-represented in Studyportals’ dataset.