The International Student Mobility Flows and Covid-19 Realities report considers how global student mobility flows in major world regions have been impacted by the pandemic.
Evidence suggests that international student enrolment for the 2020/2021 academic year declined in most leading host countries, however the anticipated drop initially predicted by higher education leaders and researchers was not as steep as expected.
“Large research institutions appeared to fare better than other institutions”
Enrolment figures vary depending on institution type, the report explained.
“Large research institutions appeared to fare better than other institutions, and, in some countries, increased enrolment at research institutions offset declines at other, smaller institutions.”
Travel restrictions, visa delays, and public health policies may have rendered short‐term exchange opportunities impractical, which have led to marked decreases in enrolment, the paper noted.
Continuing international degree-seeking student enrolment has been stable, it explained, with potential factors being international students pausing or slowing the pace of academic studies, as well as remaining in education for a longer period.
“Additionally, many institutions provided support for continuing international students who were already in the country and continued their studies,” the paper said.
“As a result, continuing international student numbers held steady, and declines were reported primarily around new international student enrolment.”
Border closures, visas and vaccines all remain barriers to international student mobility, the paper contended.
“Higher education institutions around the world are working hard to provide options for international students, including hybrid instruction models and other options for study as we anticipate fall 2021,” the report noted.
Increased communications, mental health and wellbeing services, financial support, among other actions will be important to support international students and maintain a welcome environment, it continued.
“At the same time, higher education institutions remain bound to the Covid‐19 response of their respective countries.
“Students and institutions must make decisions in spring and early summer 2021 for enrolment in fall 2021. These decisions have proven difficult for many to make with the dynamic nature of the Covid‐19 pandemic on policies, Covid rates, vaccination rollouts, travel, and visa restrictions.”
Citing Navitas surveys, the paper noted Canada, the UK and the US continue to attract international students as a result of health crisis management. Border closure in Australia, China and Japan could affect the recovery of the market, it noted.
“Longer border closures in key markets that send international students abroad may result in the reduction of agents and loss of knowledge, a ripple effect that could further delay restarting once countries are ready to welcome students back,” the report said.
“Despite these challenges, international education will continue in its many forms, with students interested in an education abroad and many countries eager to host them, this fall and in the future.”
“It is imperative for us to reframe and reinvent our understanding of global mobility”
In the adverse affect of the pandemic on global mobility, “redundant systems” need to be overhauled in favour of innovative new-age technology, responsive pedagogical changes, and a more inclusive outlook, Uttiyo Raychaudhuri, vice provost for Internationalisation at the University of Denver and a member of the IC3 Movement advisory committee, wrote in the paper.
“It is imperative for us to reframe and reinvent our understanding of global mobility,” Raychaudhuri stated.
“Framing it within the conceptual underpinnings of the fourth industrial revolution guided by the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals might be the way forward. The global mobility focus should change from transactional to a transformational and responsible approach for talent acquisition.
“It should not rely solely on cross‐border travel to access education, but newer technology‐enabled hybrid learning solutions can expand the field through a distributed approach. Innovation, policy support, and our ability to scale will be crucial here while being cognisant not to expand digital inequality.”