However, despite the risks involved, over 91% of Indian students expressed a strong interest in studying abroad as soon as they were allowed to do so. The only questions that are left to ask are, when will the travel ban be lifted and which study destination should they consider knowing the current economic/political impact?
According to UNESCO, there were 5 million international students across the globe in 2018, and 750,000 of those happened to be from India. However, COVID-19 has forced students across India to rethink their decision to study abroad and even where they do so.
In the past, countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, have been preferred by Indian students. However, as COVID-19 continues to affect the world, students have begun to reevaluate their choices and are turning their attention to countries such as New Zealand, Germany, and even Ireland.
“Our surveys show that a whopping 91% of Indian students are concerned about their future, post COVID-19. However, at iSchoolConnect, we observed that it had hardly reduced international students’ interests to study abroad,” states Ashish Fernando, CEO and Founder of iSchoolConnect Inc. “Their countries of choice, however, are certainly changing”, he elaborates.
Changing country preferences before COVID-19
In the past decade, students’ country preferences have been changing. The top reasons for this shift are the increased number of courses provided by some of the other countries and the ease of admission process. Germany, Ireland, South Korea, Singapore are some of the examples of countries students have started to prefer.
iSchoolConnect analyzed the student migration pattern from 2000 to 2016 and the results showed a surprising shift in interest. Here’s a curated report explaining the nature of these shifts. The key observation to be highlighted here is the percentage of Indian students who traveled overseas. Their numbers increased from 66,000 in 2000 to 301,000 in 2016, based on the data generated by UNESCO, Institute of Statistics. It’s worthwhile to dive deeper and understand where students from the second-largest sending country, actually ended up going.
In 2000, the major share of Indian students overseas was divided into 4 major receiving countries. The US ranked first with a substantial 59 per cent. Australia, UK, and Canada followed next with a share of 7 per cent, 6 per cent, and 1 per cent respectively. The remaining 27 per cent included all the other countries. However, this trend has certainly seen a shift since then.
Recent statistics indicate that there is a clear switch in Indian student preferences while choosing a country for overseas education. In 2016, Australia showed a growth of 8% thereby reaching a migration percentage of over 15%. Just like Australia, Canada’s inbound migration bumped up to 7%. On the other hand, the US showed a percentage drop in inbound migration. While in absolute numbers, the US still ranks the most popular host country, the inbound student migration spiraled down from 59% to 45%.
How COVID-19 impacted student choices
When COVID-19 hit the world, universities worldwide had to rapidly shift to virtual education in order to ensure student as well as personnel safety. February 2020 onwards, several countries issued international travel bans. Embassies and consulate services were limited only to critical services, and visa applications were put on hold. This scenario drastically affected students and made many of them reconsider their choice of countries for higher education.
“The early 2020s have reduced international student mobility, drastically. Consequently, universities as well as students worldwide have made temporary shifts to online education. However, for many programs and their curriculums, this is not a sustainable solution. In fact, universities are trying their level best to take measures that will allow students to attend their classes on-campus again,” said Angel Ahmed, the Head of Student Sucess at iSchoolConnect Inc, while shedding more light on the concept of online education during COVID-19.
Before COVID-19, factors such as the ease of admissions, education quality, immigration policies, costs, etc. were the primary concerns for most students. However, since this global pandemic, health safety and minimum risk are two of the most important factors students are considering while choosing their study abroad destination. Therefore, countries that demonstrate low numbers of COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand, Australia, Germany, etc. are clearly more appealing targets.
Future implications and predictions post-COVID
As the world slowly recovers from Coronavirus and eases back to normalcy, international travel and visa processing activities are already set to resume in India. iSchoolConnect conducted a survey of 5000 college-level students, most of whom are set to resume their study abroad plans as soon as the travel bans across countries have lifted and the universities open up.
Our survey indicates that Indian students who intend to study abroad will naturally prefer places that have done better in controlling the pandemic such as Germany, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand, as opposed to countries like the United States or the United Kingdom.
As the international policies change and the universities reopen, it remains to be seen where the Indian students appear on the global landscape and which countries will be their focus. iSchoolConnect will continue to monitor student goals and university processes closely to gain further insight into study abroad developments.