COVID-19 has changed study abroad landscape, global survey of education agents reveals

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study abroad, foreign education, scholarships

80% of education agents feel factors influencing study abroad decisions have changed due to the pandemic with increased student and parent interest in blended delivery, financial support and career outcomes

(New Delhi, 14th December 2021): Four out of five educational counsellors and agents globally (80%) have registered changes in the factors influencing students’ and parents’ decision-making around study abroad because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a global survey by INTO University Partnerships shows.

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A total of 1,126 agents from 79 countries participated in the survey, which was carried out over the first two weeks of November 2021. The represented countries include India, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Nigeria and Brazil.

Just over three-quarters of agents in India (76%) think some aspects of choosing to study abroad for university education have changed as a result of COVID-19. For nearly all the agents (above 88%), the students and parents with whom they work are increasingly price-sensitive, focusing on scholarships and other forms of financial aid as they weigh their options. At the same time, around 82% of the agents surveyed note students and parents are far more focused on career outcomes than they were pre-COVID-19, and 65% say their clients demand stronger return on investment.

“Our global survey has shown that there has been a significant shift in the way students all over the world are approaching foreign education”, said Mr Diwakar Chandiok, Recruitment Director, South Asia, INTO University Partnerships. “Students increasingly looking at universities that offer a higher return on investment, scholarships and degree outcomes/job opportunities clearly reflects the new terrain and accommodating their demands will be critical to continue recovery”.

Most agents (87%) anticipate that student demand will return to primarily face-to-face learning moving forward. However, 60% somewhat agree that more students now are interested in blended delivery than in the years preceding the pandemic.

“It is welcome news for the higher education sector that students continue to prioritise in-person study abroad experiences. Also, it is equally important to note that a significant number of students are interested in blended delivery which has emerged as a technology-driven response to the pandemic. It demonstrates how critical it is for the sector to build flexibility into education delivery — and always adapt to meet students’ needs where they are,” said Olivia Streatfeild, CEO, INTO University Partnerships

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In addition to these changes, 43% of agents have seen some change in the subjects Indian students want to pursue. Specifically, 25% record greater interest in data science and data analytics, while 20% indicate that there is a greater interest in computer science and related specialities in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Looking ahead, 31% of agents identify the immigration policies of destination countries as the factor that will have the greatest impact on study abroad decision-making over the next five years, while 22% say it will be the job opportunities in the destination countries.

“National programmes that empower international students to live and work in their destination countries after earning degrees aren’t just nice to have — they’re essential. Not only do they enhance countries’ ability to compete for global talent, they protect the immense contributions of international students to local communities and national economies,” said Ms. Streatfeild.

Thousands of students leave India to study abroad annually. In 2019 and 2020, 850,337 students crossed borders for higher education. The global economic impact of international students from India is estimated to be in excess of US$29 billion.

Agents are most positive about the UK as a study destination across the board. Over 69% feel positive about how welcoming and safe the country is for international students, and 63% feel positive about how the UK government has handled the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Agent sentiment toward the US is comparatively less favourable. 66% feel positive about how welcoming the country is to international students, and 55% feel positive about the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout.

Moreover, 71% of agents in India are expected to send more students to the UK in the coming year, slightly higher than for the US (66%).

India specific highlights from the survey: 

  • 76% of education agents think the factors influencing study abroad decisions have changed because of COVID-19.
  • 88% of education agents think students/parents are increasingly looking for scholarships and financial aid due to COVID-19; 82% think students/parents are now more focused on career outcomes, and 65% think they demand stronger return on investment
  • 87% of education agents anticipate that student demand will return primarily to face-to-face study, although 71% report more students are interested in blended delivery since the start of the pandemic.
  • 43% of education agents see some change in the subjects’ students want to pursue; 25% see increased interest in data science and analytics, and 20% see increased interest in computer science and specialism.
  • 31% of education agents identify the immigration policies of destination countries as the factor that will have the greatest impact on study abroad decision-making in the next five years, and another 22% feel the top factor will be the job opportunities in destination countries. 69% of education agents feel positive about how welcoming and safe the UK is for international students, and 63% feel positive about the UK government’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
  • 66% of education agents feel positive about how welcoming and safe the US is for international students, and 55% feel positive about the US government’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
  • 71% of education agents expect to send more students to the UK in the coming year
  • 66%of education agents expect to send more students to the US in the coming year, with 20% expecting to send a significantly greater volume.

About INTO University Partnerships: 

INTO University Partnerships is an independent organisation committed to expanding higher education and career opportunities for students across the globe.

We believe in the power of education to transform lives. We believe that movement of students leads to movement of ideas, which in turn creates better and more successful societies.  

We connect students seeking quality international education with leading universities worldwide aspiring to widen their global reach and impact. Achieving the best learning experience and career prospects for students is central to our mission.  

Since our inception in 2005, INTO has pioneered innovation in international education and created groundbreaking partnerships with 30 universities in the US, UK and Australia. We have so far helped more than 130,000 students from 190 countries realise their dream of achieving a degree from a world-class university. We also equip students to get a head start in building a career. We do this by offering exceptional academic and employability skills programmes. 

We are active in over 120 countries and provide unrivalled personalised service to international students with more than 1,500 experienced staff worldwide and a global network of 2,000 recruitment partners. 

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