As we head towards the end of 2020 (and what a year it’s been!), we’re taking stock of the recent research around what prospective international students are prioritising at the moment. We’ll also be sharing some tips around what higher education providers can do to remain attractive to international students as we journey into 2021.
Image by Clay Banks.
On 29 September, higher education think tank QS published research exploring the attitudes of prospective international students in relation to studying abroad, six months on from the beginning of the UK’s nationwide lockdown in March. The data is part of ongoing research into how COVID-19 is impacting higher education.
QS questioned 1,021 prospective international students who were interested in studying in the UK. The research reveals that restrictions on leaving and entering different countries had the biggest impact on international students being able to begin their overseas studies in 2020. Let’s take a look at some of the report’s key findings:
Universities have been working relentlessly this year under challenging circumstances to put contingency plans in place to accommodate students.
Earlier in the year, we wrote about how universities are mitigating the impact of COVID-19 to obtain international diversity in admissions. According to QS’ report, 77 per cent of prospective international candidates believe that universities have been effective at supporting international students during COVID-19.
A new report by BridgeU focusing on how COVID-19 will impact international student enrolments in 2021 and 2021 makes for an interesting read, particularly when it comes to destinations of study. The survey’s respondents are prospective international students across 83 countries (who are planning to enrol in 2020 and 2021) as well as university guidance counsellors from 41 countries. The report also takes into consideration insights from almost 17,000 international high school students. Here are some key findings that we found particularly useful:
From virtual campus tours to online teaching, virtual activities have become part and parcel of the university experience this year. And even when things do return to some semblance of ‘normal’, these virtual methods are likely to stay in some form or another - especially when it comes to recruiting international students.
Virtual open days and seminars have the potential to make institutions more desirable for international students, as well as domestic ones.
For some prospective international students, travel isn’t possible, pandemic or not. Virtual alternatives can boost inclusivity and diversity by making programmes more flexible and accessible. Now that institutions have the technology in place, it needn’t go underutilised.
Peer support is incredibly valuable when it comes to helping international students to feel settled and supported in a new environment. And with levels of uncertainty at a record high, it’s become even more important.
In fact, a report by Intead revealed that 51 per cent of prospective students in Asia said conversing online with a student ambassador had an impact on their decision to apply to an overseas institution. (69 per cent in Africa and 62 per cent in Europe said the same.)
“Student ambassadors instil confidence in prospective students and provide encouragement along the way. This provides a unique and honest perspective about academics, student life and local culture.” - Insead report
As well as focusing on how to boost international student enrolments, institutions must focus on retaining international students’ by providing the right support. Strategies like online mentoring and enabling international students to have their voices heard are vital.
One university that is particularly adept at amplifying international students’ voices is the University of Sheffield in the UK.
Its ongoing #WeAreInternational campaign is backed by 160 universities, education institutions and international organisations. According to Hobsons’ International Student Survey, 84 per cent of prospective international students say campaigns such as #WeAreInternational positively influenced their perception of the UK.
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