Int’l Students Uncertain Over Study Abroad Plans Due to COVID-19, Survey Shows

In an effort to understand how the Corona pandemic has affected the international student enrollments in the United Kingdom, the British Council has surveyed international students during the past six months.

The latest survey took place from August 6 to September 12, 2020, and aimed to reveal the number of students who would cancel or postpone their plans during this academic year.

According to a guest blog published by HEPI and written by Matt Durnin who is the Global Head of Insights & Consultancy within the International Education Services at the British Council, 28 per cent of Chinese students expressed uncertainty over cancelling or delaying their plans to continue studies abroad.

That’s lower than the 40 per cent to 42 per cent we saw in our previous two surveys, but still high for so late in the cycle. Moreover, if you combine the undecideds with those who are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to cancel, we can see the contours of a worst-case scenario in which around 55 per cent could still decide to delay or cancel,” Durnin says.

The third round of the survey conducted in August/September shows that:

  • 33 per cent of Chinese students answered “somewhat unlikely” when asked about cancelling or delaying their study abroad plans
  • 12 per cent of them answered “not at all likely”
  • 12 per cent had already cancelled or postponed plans
  • 8 per cent said “somewhat likely”
  • 7 per cent answered they are very likely to cancel or delay their study abroad plans

Despite the uncertainty, the Chinese students appeared to be still interested in continuing studies in the United Kingdom, which is a good sign for the longer-term recovery in student mobility.

Differently, last month, Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) published figures which show that the international admissions at British universities have increased despite the travel bans imposed due to the Corona pandemic.

However, there is a difference between UCAS figures and British Council survey data because the figures published by UCAS refer to admissions and not enrollments as well as do cover only a portion of potential undergraduate students.

In the meantime, nearly 60 per cent of student respondents in India answered they are “not at all likely” cancelling or pushing back their study plans in the UK, a figure that increased up from 43 per cent that it was June. Whereas, 21 per cent of Indian respondents claimed they were very likely to cancel or postpone their study abroad plans or had already done it.

Moreover, students were also asked about concerns over several issues while thinking about their studies overseas.  According to them, the most important issues amid the pandemic are health and wellbeing.

In China, 81 per cent of respondents claimed that they are very concerned regarding their health and safety when planning to study abroad.

In addition to health and wellbeing, students also stated that financial issues and affordable flights also make it more difficult to plan studies abroad.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global airline passenger traffic is expected to drop by 56 per cent in 2020. In November, flight schedules have been improved. However, shortages are estimated to continue even by 2021.

According to data, nearly 500,000 international students enrol at the United Kingdom’s universities every year.

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