Since March 2020, all of us have faced several losses and challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the entire world in a state of lockdown, affecting businesses and economies in general. As the world looks forward to a new dawn in 2021, things look slightly different than last year.
Travelling overseas to study seems possible in the fall of 2021.
After a challenging year, more Indians are interested in studying overseas as embassies open up and flights resume. In an interview, Surekha Shetty, senior director, admissions and office of career advancement and networking at Alliance University, stated, "the number of students abroad decreased by 20% to 30% last year; however, it increased substantially; in 2021."
While Premila Paulraj, Director- Employability & Qualifications - South Asia, Pearson, a publishing and educational assessment service owned by Britain, said, "With the gradual unlocking of policies, the relaxation of travel restrictions and the lifting of vaccination procedures, students from all over India were strongly encouraged to reconsider their decision to study abroad in 2021. One study found that more than 91% of Indian students showed a keen interest in studying abroad this year."Due to travel restrictions, students remained resilient, said Abhishek Gupta, engagement manager at RedSeer, a management consulting company. He added that while Australia is still lagging, the numbers are going back to pre-Covid levels regarding applications to Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.
He noted that new admissions of Indian students in the Swiss Education Group currently stand at 10 per cent below 2019 levels.
The number of Indians studying overseas increased at a healthy rate until last year when the coronavirus epidemic hit countries worldwide. "While Australia was completely wiped off in terms of countries because the borders were closed. There the drop was high," said Mr Abhishek Gupta. Further added, Canada experienced the slightest drop because it clarified that online enrollment would count towards visa eligibility requirements.
Indian students studying overseas data
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) data, a significant drop in students studying overseas has been observed. Around 2.6 lakh students went abroad in 2020 compared to 5.9 lakh students in 2019. While in 2021 [until February 28, 2021], a total of 71,769 Indians had gone abroad to study overseas.Another report claim that even as the number of Indian students opting for higher education overseas grows annually, their abroad spending is set to grow from the current annual $28 billion to $80 billion by 2024, the latest' Higher Education Abroad' report by consulting firm RedSeer estimates.
According to the report, the number of Indian students opting for higher education abroad grew from 440,000 in 2016 to 770,000 in 2019 and is set to grow further to roughly 1.8 million by 2024, resulting in increased overseas spending on higher education. Compared to this, students domestically increased from 37 million to roughly 40 million between 2016 and 2019. It is claimed by the embassy that the United States mission in India has approved more student visas in 2021 so far than ever before. While according to the U.S. embassy, more than 55,000 students and exchange visitors have or will board planes to study in the United States this year. "More students are being approved every day," it said.
Aside from these, experts believe that the best countries for higher education currently are the United Kingdom (U.K.), Canada, the U.S. and Ireland. Since last year, COVID-19 has created a disaster that has impacted global statistics on the number of students studying abroad.
Changes post-covid in the education market
In recent times, educators have noted that Indian people interested in studying abroad are more interested in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) and data analysis.
In the United States, data analysis courses are classified as STEM. There is a lottery system for visas and students in STEM, which can be extended for three years. So there is an increased focus on STEM courses. It is also found that IT-related courses are gaining momentum given the increasing digital trend in all sectors, and nursing programs are also growing in popularity, given the global shortage of healthcare workers and the healthcare sector's future trend becoming increasingly lucrative from an employment perspective.
Students now are focusing on artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, coding, process automation, biomedical science, nursing, medicine, cyber security, genetics, virology, epidemiology, digital marketing, business insights and analytics as the near future upholds immense job opportunities in these areas of learning that the students can pursue.
Besides Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Cyber security, sectors like Environmental Science (especially in renewable energies) will probably become famous. Also, considering the current load on healthcare infrastructure globally, Biotechnology, Health Informatics, Pharmacy, Equipment Manufacturing, and Healthcare Administration will expand rapidly in the next few years, resulting in a rise in direct and indirect jobs in that sector. In retrospect, the hospitality industry will also rebound when things return to normal.
Also, after the crisis witnessed in the health system due to Covid -19, students are focusing on the future to remain competitive and accommodate themselves with the market trends. The Indian students seem to look forward to blended learning with online and offline classes and post-work visa permits. Also, to sustain a competitive job market and accelerate complete digitalization amidst the pandemic, it is suitable for students to explore skilled-based courses.
They are also looking forward to attaining a degree in Biotechnology, Health Informatics, Pharmacy, Equipment, Manufacturing, and Health Care Infrastructure, as the jobs in these sectors will also rise.
Aside from all, students no more shortlist their universities based on factors such as the school's reputation, ranking, faculty, student body, job prospects, and clubs & activities. With the pandemic expected to last for some more time, a certified health care practitioner in/near the university is becoming a matter of concern.
Trends in the international education market
South Korea is increasing at a giant pace, while Australia is falling
The United Kingdom has always been a popular choice among young learners when it comes to studying abroad, but the popularity is dropping down, while the U.S. holds steady at around 14% of students in this year's and last year's survey; in comparison to 2019 estimate, it was 21%. However, Canada made the most significant gains in the top three last year. In North America, there has been a 10% growth in student interest from last year and a 14% increase from the year before.
However, South Korea has taken the lead this time. Driven by the South Korean government's ambitious Study in Korea initiative, including an increased number of English-taught programs at Korean universities, international student interest in Korea as a study abroad destination has skyrocketed. It is found that since last year, more than double the proportion of prospective international students surveyed say they want to study abroad here, and more than triple that of 2019. The destination grew in popularity by double in the United States since 2019 and more than quadrupled in Asia.
Due to border closures, Australia falls amongst the most suffered Country this year. The border is recently opening up for international students after extended pandemic closures. With most of Australia's international student population coming from Asia, it is shocking that Asian student interest has dropped by 35% since 2019. With heightened attention to studying in Korea, Japan has also grown significantly for Asian students - a 71% increase from 2019.
Student safety concerns high
Multi-dimensional understanding of students' anxieties of the first time living abroad students is necessary as it is reported that 85% are concerned about their safety while only 15% of all prospective students indicated they have no concerns with safety when heading abroad.
Focusing on Africa and Asia, the numbers are overwhelmingly large. Within Africa, 91% of students say they are apprehensive about their safety when studying abroad, 60% cited racial discrimination as their biggest concern. Proportions of worried students are higher In Asia. 93% of students indicate safety concerns, 26% of Asian students think about potential racial discrimination, and 25% are worried about Asian hate abroad.
Amid the surge of xenophobia towards international students in such popular countries, it is necessary to create safe spaces and provide robust student support to international students.
Career paths - a big focus
As the pandemic continues to shape international student decision-making, finding job security in the face of economic uncertainty has become more of a priority than ever. International students worldwide have made considerable leaps in the focus of how their degree will place them in the workforce. Achieving career goals has become the top motivation for students looking to study abroad overall, with the highest percentage prioritizing this factor in the regional area of the Middle East, Caucasia, and Central Asia (54%).
When looking at the most critical aspects of a program, 70% more European students prioritize graduate career prospects as a top program factor this year than last. Particular regions of Asia are also looking toward their future career path. Southeast Asia and South Asia saw a 26% increase since 2020 in the proportion of students valuing graduate career prospects in a program the most.
Mental health has become increasingly important
Mental health is coupled with heightened safety concerns and anxieties about future jobs. At present, international students are more inclined toward their mental health, especially as the world continues to adjust to new global realities.
In comparison to last year's survey, although there is a slight change in the proportion of students who are not considering the importance of mental health support services when deciding on a university. There is, however, a shift in those who do prioritize the importance of these services when making decisions. A 14% rise in students says that a university's mental health support services are essential.
YouTube plummets - Instagram reigns king
Two years back, YouTube was the resounding winner across other social media platforms for researching study abroad options. At present, however, Instagram claims the top spot as the most helpful social media platform when looking for information about a university. Around 10% of students in North America prefer Facebook, while in Africa, Facebook overtakes Instagram with 31% of students.
Nearly 2% of North Americans and 3% of Oceanic students learn more about universities using the new entrant, TikTok.
Schools growing in importance, Country dropping as a priority
Since 2019, it has been observed that students are more interested in looking at the institution. An increase of 133%, 96%, and 93%, respectively, has been observed in African, European and Asian students. Oceania students are the exception. The proportion of students considering the school first has decreased by half in the same period.
The study abroad Country is diminishing in favour of other factors as a first consideration in several regions. Over the last two years, the Country has decreased in importance in Latin America by 38%, Europe by 34%, and 25% in North America.
Though there has been a slight drop worldwide, the program became more often the priority in decision-making in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America. Growth levels shot up exceptionally high in Oceania and Latin America over the last few years, where 59% and 21% more students say that finding the right program is the most important when decision-making.
Students are divided on whether they want a flexible study mode or face-to-face campus instruction
It is reported that 43% of students prefer blended learning or a mix of online and in-person classes but not completely online learning experiences when studying abroad.
In this year's survey, it was found that the study mode and flexibility of a course have double the importance to American students (42%) than for Canadians (20%). Additionally, it was observed that the on-campus delivery rose almost four times more vital for South Asians since last year as a decision-making factor when looking at study abroad programs (24%). A double number of students chose in-person delivery as a program factor, demonstrating an education landscape affected by the pandemic. It is expected that mixed-mode delivery could be here to stay.
Peer-to-Peer continues to be very influential
As per the estimates, 63% of prospective students said they want to talk to international students before applying to a university this year. Only 17% want to talk to the alumni of a program or university; these statistics indicate the importance of student ambassadors studying abroad.
Another survey predicts that 39% of prospective students cited student stories of studying abroad as a most helpful factor when deciding where to study. Student stories hold even more influence than the global average in Oceania (56%), North America (52%), and Europe (47%).
Noting students' increased preferences for more personal communication is paramount. Peer-to-peer signals a desire for prospective students to hear about the international student experience from someone they authentically relate to.
When students plan to go abroad for their studies varies heavily by region
Walking through the student journey reveals elongating planning periods in all areas but to different extents. In Southeast Asia, 80% more students plan to study abroad four or more years in advance than in 2020. Also, since last year, there have been more than twice as many African students planning one year and considerable jumps in the proportions of students from Latin America, the Middle East, Caucasia, and Central Asia planning one year.
It is challenging to predict student mobility at this time, and when students freely flow around the world again is anyone's guess. What is comforting to see is the heavy tilt towards planning one year in advance. As the student journey has been getting longer since 2019, it will be interesting to observe how the scale will tilt once travel limitations no longer restrict students. Will the student journey continue on the longer side? Or will things become more balanced?
Concerns about the pandemic vary heavily by region
While students will always have specific worries to overcome when deciding on an international program, the pandemic has blurred the lines between the concerns we expect to see and what has emerged due to the virus. So, what are students' newer pandemic-related concerns? The responses to this survey question brought out significant differences within global regions.
Worries about travel entry to their Country of choice reach over half of the students in Oceania and Africa (59%). Oceanic students are the most concerned with staying focused and motivated for their studies (35%), and African students have the highest proportion of students anxious about teaching flexibility (13%) and the recognition of online qualifications (13%). Students from Asia are also apprehensive about online qualification recognition (12%) and time differences in online programs (18%).
Limited cultural opportunities are at the front of nearly half of prospective students' minds in North America (48%) and Latin America (47%). Europeans, however, are the group most concerned about their social life and interactions with classmates (42%) when thinking about studying overseas. Europe also has the highest number worried about understanding course material online (30%).
The world is uncertain, and an international education may be a giant leap for some. However, with the correct information and enough support, we can help these students with their dream study abroad program in no time.