US International Higher Education

Reflecting on the US election result 
and its impact on global higher education

The international education sector was left in shock yesterday, after discovering the news that Donald Trump had won the US presidential election. This seismic event in US politics slipped under the radar of the polls and caught most of us by surprise, prompting students, academics and educators to flock to Twitter to voice their concerns and even causing the Canadian immigration website to crash. But if Brexit has taught us anything, it’s that dramatic change in our sector will not happen overnight and that we should look to online prospective student searching behaviour for ideas of how it could impact us in the short-term.

This week we’ll be polling our international student audience on the results and how this affects their future study plans. The findings will be revealed at our International Student Recruitment Forum at the end of month. Like many people, my belief in the political system in 2016 has been tested, but one thing I have always been able to rely on is how much inspiration and optimism international students and their voice can bring to our communities in times of uncertainty.

Of all the student populations around the world, South American students are some of the most concerned right now, but speaking to an LSE alumni from Brazil, Eduardo Lazzarotto, about the current political climate, left me feeling hopeful. “More than ever the world needs examples of integration and forward thinking and no one better than international students to represent that,” he told me.

Just last week, London celebrated its international student talent at the International Student Showcase, supported by the London Mayor. One of the most moving conversations of my evening came when talking to Denis Huen, an Oxford University student from Hong Kong, who told me about the work he did with sufferers of Parkinson’s disease while he designed a tremor-stabilising prototype. He explained that he chose the UK because of its multicultural qualities and its “wonderful history and connection” with his native Hong Kong. Denis plans to continue his studies at US university, MIT, in the future and a Trump government has not in any way dampened his determination to study there and make a difference.

Simon Emmett, CEO, Hotcourses Group, said: “Another very significant political event for us to consider. I don’t expect the globalisation of study to stop, or even see a slowdown in the short and medium term. The demand to study and get overseas qualifications will still be there, though the supply of where and how they study may change.

“We’ll track what happens in the international US market, but the Brexit effect doesn’t seem to have slowed down commercial opportunities for the UK. If anything, universities may need to work more closely with us and we will be fully supportive of their short-term strategies.”

The results of the poll, along with detailed analysis of post-Brexit international student data will be presented at the International Student Recruitment Forum in London on November 30. For those not able to attend, slides will published online.

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