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International Students Considering Studying Abroad Again Thanks to COVID-19 Vaccine

14 Jan 2021

International students have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Local and international restrictions on travel highly destabilized student plans across the globe, with many deferring or cancelling their plans to study abroad completely.

In the US, for example, 700 colleges saw a 16 percent decrease in foreign student enrollment from the fall of 2019, as well as a 43 percent drop in commencements. In fact, nearly 40,000 international students who had planned to study in the US from September 2020 and beyond deferred their spot at business school in the spring and summer.

Another report on 2021 trends found that international student numbers in Australia could drop by half by mid-year if borders remain closed to non-residents and citizens ¡V a disheartening figure for Australian universities and b-schools, who already experienced an 80 to 90 percent decrease in study visa applications during 2020.

Nevertheless, news of the recently-approved vaccines against COVID-19 might reshape applicants¡¦ attitudes towards studying abroad earlier than the higher education community expected. Here¡¦s why.

Less fears, less deferrals
Student deferrals and delays characterized many admissions cycles across the globe. In fact, of the 887 prospective foreign students who participated in the QS coronavirus report, over half intended to defer or delay their entry to university until 2021 ¡V with the number peaking at 61 percent in April 2020 and remained above 55 percent until November.

However, final survey results showed that the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine could lead to fewer delays and deferrals in 2021. In November, 21 percent of respondents said that the introduction of a potential coronavirus vaccine would make them want to start their studies earlier ¡V highly positive news for universities and b-schools around the world after the year of uncertainty.

Jessica Turner, Managing Director of QS, said: ¡§Our latest insight shows that a potential COVID-19 vaccine would prompt many international students to bring forward their plans for studying abroad.¡¨

And now, with multiple vaccines being approved on a global scale, it truly seems that universities and business schools can breathe a sigh of relief.

Schools to put in the work
While the approval of potential coronavirus vaccines has given hope to thousands ¡V if not millions ¡V of international students across the globe, the post-pandemic recovery phase for HE won¡¦t come without its challenges.

As highlighted by our survey results, almost half (43 percent) of respondents said news of vaccine rollouts would make little to no difference to their plans for the upcoming year. Notably, many highlighted that they wouldn¡¦t feel comfortable relocating abroad if schools couldn¡¦t guarantee the resuming of key in-person activities, including face-to-face classes and networking opportunities.

Nevertheless, Turner believes that vaccination campaigns could change these attitudes and encourage more international applicants to study overseas.

She said: ¡§While some universities did not suffer the reduction in international students at the start of the academic year that many had feared, a significant proportion of current international students did not travel to their study destination of choice due to either a lack of face-to-face teaching provision or travel restrictions.

¡§A COVID-19 vaccine will be able to significantly tackle both of these obstacles for prospective students planning to study abroad, which is encouraging news for the future of global higher education.¡¨

A competitive year for b-school applications
Research by GMAC has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a sharp increase in b-school applications in fall 2020 ¡V a trend that is set to continue throughout 2021, as the vaccine encourages more applicants decide to take the plunge and upskill their business abilities.

Here¡¦s everything you need to know about applying and landing a spot in 2021.
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