International student choices and motivations increasingly driven by the availability of face-to-face teaching.
The third round of IDP Connect’s study of international students shows increasingly positive perceptions of countries that have remained open during the pandemic, but that many students are willing to change destination to fulfill their ambitions for face-to-face learning.
The findings are part of the third installment of IDP Connect’s International Student Crossroads Research, which examined the attitudes and behaviors of more than 5,000 international students, current applicants and offer holders to higher education institutions across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Results showed that the UK and US’s policies of remaining open to international students throughout the pandemic have driven increasingly positive sentiment, while borders remaining closed in Australia and New Zealand have led to international students growing restless as they face a drawn-out waiting game.
The survey also found that to varying degrees, all the major destination countries are at risk of students switching destinations to gain more face-to-face teaching earlier. Overall, just under a third of students (32%) are highly likely to switch destinations, with a further 24% likely to do so.
Globally, there is a growing acceptance of the measures put in place to mitigate risk, with over 90% of students willing to quarantine upon arrival, up from 72% in June. Students are also increasingly willing to commence their studies online before transitioning to face-to-face later in their course, up from 31% in April and 40% in June to 43% in October. However, 44% of respondents stated that they would only be willing to wait 3 months before transitioning to face-to-face, highlighting students’ increasing preference and impatience to get on campus.
Positively, for institutions reliant on large numbers of students commencing their studies in early 2021, increasing numbers of students in the survey are expecting to commence their studies as planned (80%), up from 69% in April and 74% in June.
Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, said the research is a reminder of the ambition and eagerness of international students to pursue their lifelong goals.
“This year, international students have shown grit and resilience as they adapted their longstanding travel plans to accommodate COVID-19 challenges,” Emmett said.
“Our research has shown that students are increasingly determined to commence their studies as planned. Many (44 percent) are only willing to study online before transitioning to face-to-face for up to three months. They are seeking solutions and want support from universities and governments to help get them on to campus sooner.
“We’ve also seen that there is a real risk associated with being perceived as a country that is less ‘open for business’. Countries that have communicated strongly that international students are welcome, such as the UK, have seen a rise in attractiveness compared to countries with stricter border controls, such as Australia,” Emmett said.
Emmett also highlighted that educators and policy makers need to put themselves in the shoes of international students.
“International students – and their experience and knowledge – are incredibly invaluable to our communities, helping to create and maintain jobs across many industries.
“As new study semesters commence, we encourage education institutions to understand the concerns of their student cohort and work with governments to find new ways to deliver blended models of delivery and enable students to study on campus sooner,” Emmett said.
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