According to the ‘International Student Crossroads’ survey, which examined international student applicants’ attitudes and motivations for studying abroad in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, just over a quarter (26%) were unsure as to whether or not they would commence studies as planned.
The survey covered nearly 6,900 applicants planning to study in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US.
“It is crucial that we all work together”
“Given the unprecedented challenges the global community is facing, it is encouraging to know the vast majority of students surveyed state their perception of their study destination had not changed and they were holding on to their international education plans,” IDP Education CEO, Andrew Barkla, said.
However, Barkla said that while this is somewhat reassuring, there are several barriers that will impact institutions’ abilities to meet this demand, “such as ongoing travel restrictions and social distancing measures”.
“It is crucial that we all work together to find ways of ensuring students and receiving countries can continue to experience the benefits of international education,” he said.
The survey further showed that students would prefer to delay studying until 2021 as opposed to commencing their courses online, particularly at the postgraduate level.
Among students who preferred to defer than study online, 69% said studying online “lacked international exposure” and 47% were concerned about standards.
“31% of respondents stated they would be willing to start their course online and move to face-to-face learning at a later date, but by far the greatest preference was to defer to January 2021 if this meant face-to-face learning would be possible,” IDP Connect CEO, Simon Emmett, said.
“More than half of all students were only willing to defer up to 12 months or less before changing their plans or exploring other study options.
“This creates a narrow opportunity for destination markets and institutions who rely on September intake,” he added.
Participants were also asked to rate prospective host countries out of 10 in terms of how the coronavirus has impacted perceptions. The US and to a lesser extent the UK scored less than their Canadian and antipodean counterparts.
However, all scored between six and seven in the “travel restriction policies” section, despite very different approaches to managing travel during the pandemic
The UK, for example, is one of only a handful of countries not to have closed its borders yet was still considered as restrictive as the others.
“While it is positive there is still strong demand, there is more work to be done”
Based on its findings, IDP recommended stakeholders “provide clarity where possible as to how and when face-to-face teaching will resume” and “build in capacity for large cohorts of students commencing face-to-face studies from January to May 2021”.
“While it is positive there is still strong demand, there is more work to be done,” Emmett noted.
“If destination countries and institutions are to meet this demand, 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.”