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International Students Determined to Study Abroad Despite COVID-19 pandemic

A new research has revealed many international students with enrolment offers from universities remain determined to fulfil their global education goals – despite the travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of students surveyed are holding on to aspirations to commence their studies on-campus within months of their originally intended start date.

The survey conducted by IDP Connect – the B2B division of international education specialists IDP Education – found 69 per cent of international students with current offers from universities surveyed expect to commence their studies as planned. Reassuringly, for the international education sector, only 5 per cent no longer expect to commence their studies.

The research examined nearly 6,900 international student applicants’ attitudes and motivations for studying in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and United States in light of COVID-19. The research focused on students’ views on commencement dates, perceptions of safety and their views of online versus face-to-face delivery.

IDP Education CEO, Andrew Barkla, said the research demonstrates students are not abandoning their dreams to study overseas, but time is limited.

“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,” Mr Barkla said.

“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.”

IDP Connect CEO, Simon Emmett, said the research showed there was a small window of opportunity where applicants would be happy to hold on to their global study goals. After this time, their interest appears to wane.

“Thirty-one per cent 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,” Mr Emmett said.

“For students who had already chosen to defer or were considering deferring, 18 per cent were only willing to defer for up to three months, 23 per cent for up to 6 months and 13 per cent for up to a year. Eighteen per cent stated they were willing to wait until the institution was ready.

“This highlights that more than half of all students (54 per cent) 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.

“While it is positive there is still strong demand, there is more work to be done. 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,” Mr Emmett said.

Mr Emmett also stated for institutions looking at commencing programs in September, the mode of delivery was a key factor for students.

“Of the students who stated they would prefer to defer than study online, 69 per cent stated they believed it lacked international exposure and 47 per cent stated the standard of online teaching was a concern.”

Mr Barkla said the findings of the research highlight there is a strong opportunity for the sector to work together to hold on to student interest.

“We all know international education plays a pivotal role in uniting the world through knowledge and cultural exchanges, and this will become even more vital as the global community begins to rebuild after the events of 2020.

“Our role as a sector is to work together to find the right solutions through effective partnerships and technology that creates a new bridge for international students to achieve their global goals,” Mr Barkla said.

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