The gradual increase in the number of students preferring to pursue higher education abroad since 2016 saw a massive drop in 2020 due to the pandemic that followed. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MEA), only 2.6 lakhs of students went abroad for higher education in 2020, up from nearly 5.19 lakhs in 2019, a drop of around 55%.
The ravages of the global pandemic and the lockdowns that followed not only created barriers for students, but also affected the economy of some of the world’s top study destinations.
After this setback, governments and universities around the world have shifted their strategies towards international students to reverse the trend. Many institutions have made rapid and dramatic changes in the way they deliver courses by moving to online teaching and learning programs.
Thanks to the rapid shift to e-learning and global immunization programs, the upward trend in higher education abroad is making a comeback, with a leading daily report that more than 70,000 students have moved abroad for their studies in the first two months of 2021.
Government initiatives to help students
Spring 2021 is seeing a rebound as many countries relaxed their travel restrictions after brief restrictions on Indian students abroad during the second wave of the pandemic. The relaxation of visa rules by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany, among a host of others, has been well received by Indian students.
American universities have launched a campaign to vaccinate students on campus to ensure a safe environment for all. On the other hand, Australia, with its high vaccination rate of 70% of the population, is preparing for a well-planned roadmap to welcome international students again.
The UK has made the necessary changes to find suitable accommodation for international students. The reintroduction of the ‘graduate route’, aka Post Study Work Visa, offers international graduates up to two years to gain the necessary experience in organizations – another major reason to repopulate study in the UK. This includes removing conditions such as a ‘job offer in hand’ or a ‘minimum wage requirement’ to stay in the UK.
Canadian universities have developed comprehensive Covid-19 preparedness plans. Canada plans to lift the suspension on all flights from India effective September 21, 2021. Additionally, students arriving in Canada are not required to self-quarantine upon arrival.
Keeping the interest of international students in Canadian education, the government has made positive changes to the immigration rules by introducing the open work permit in the interval of the approval of the post-graduation work permit (PTPD) . The new measures also make international students, who completed their Canadian studies online due to travel restrictions, eligible for the PTPD.
Emerging and permanent courses
Even before the start of the pandemic, international preferences for education had started to show a shift towards subjects other than computer science and engineering. Over the years, students began to take an interest in courses such as liberal studies, development studies, culinary arts, town planning, and architecture.
Added to the above are specialist programs such as Robotics and AI, Cybersecurity, Virtual Reality / Artificial Reality, and Business Analytics / Data Analytics, which have shown an increasing trend in interest students.
Considering the current load in the healthcare industry, many students are expected to take courses related to biotechnology, pharmacy, healthcare informatics, and hospital administration. The hospital sector is also expected to rebound once the situation returns to normal.
Factors influencing the choice of university students
A recent QS International Student Survey (ISS) highlighted the top five deciding factors in favor of a particular university. High quality education remains the most crucial factor in choosing a country, university and course. Interest, affordable tuition, available finances, better career options, and reputation are other key reasons for the investigation. The Covid-19 health crisis has added an additional layer to the complex decision-making process for study abroad applicants. Preparing a country for a health crisis is also a crucial factor in this decision-making process.
After the lull of 2020, we can expect an increase in applications for higher education at all levels in 2021. Aspirants should be well prepared for this increase. A candidate would need an exceptional profile and professional consultation to compete with higher competition on a global scale.
–Article by Tarun Aggarwal, Commercial Director (CBO) at CollegeDekho.
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