There has been a significant shift in the way students all over the world are approaching foreign education due to the pandemic, with an increased student and parent interest in blended delivery, financial support and career outcomes.
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, says a global survey by INTO University Partnerships. In India, just over three quarters of agents (76%) think some aspects of choosing to study abroad for a university education have changed as a result of the pandemic.
“Most education 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,” the survey says.
“Students increasingly looking at universities that offer 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,” says INTO University Partnerships South Asia Recruitment Director Diwakar Chandiok. INTO University Partnerships is an independent Britain-based organisation committed to expanding higher education and career opportunities for students across the globe. Since its inception in 2005, INTO has created partnerships with 30 universities in the US and UK.
Students turn price-sensitive, focus on career outcomes
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-pandemic, and 65% say their clients demand stronger return on investment.
Thousands of students leave India to study abroad annually. In 2019 and 2020, a staggering 850,337 students crossed borders for higher education. The global economic impact of international students from India is estimated to be in excess of $29 billion.
UK pips US as preferred destination
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, however, is comparatively less favourable. About two-thirds 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%).
Data, Computer Science, AI in high demand
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).
Calling it a “welcome news” for the higher education sector that students continue to prioritise in-person study abroad experiences, INTO University Partnerships CEO Olivia Streatfeild says 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,” she adds.
Immigration policies, job opportunities to influence study-abroad decisions
Looking ahead, 31% of the agents surveyed identify immigration policies of destination countries as a key factor that will have the greatest impact on study-abroad decisions 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 are essential. Not only do they enhance countries’ ability to compete for global talent, but they also protect the immense contributions of international students to local communities and national economies,” says Streatfeild.
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.