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International students are still keen to study at European universities, but as a result of the corona pandemic over half of them have decided not to come to Europe next year.
International students showing their flags during the 2015 introduction. (Photo: Introductiecommittee)

International students are still keen to study at European universities, but as a result of the corona pandemic over half of them have decided not to come to Europe next year.

Liever Nederlands

The British research agency QS sent a questionnaire to nearly 80,000 prospective international students. Has the coronavirus gotten in the way of their plans? And how do they feel about remote learning?

Of the participants in the survey, just under 30,000 indicated that they would like to study at a European university. Moreover, most of the respondents in this group (58 percent) had already picked a programme and had either completed their registration or were in the process of doing so. The rest (42 percent) had not yet decided on a programme.

More than half of this group of prospective students are postponing their study plans by a year

Although the survey is still ongoing, the results published by QS only pertain to the first weeks of the pandemic, up to the end of March. Over the course of those weeks, the researchers noticed a clear trend of increasing numbers of prospective students indicating that the coronavirus was affecting their plans.

Postponement
More than half of this group of prospective students are postponing their study plans by a year, as – by and large – they don’t seem all that interested in remote learning as an alternative to the real thing: studying abroad.

Still, the percentage of respondents who indicate that they would be interested in remote learning is growing: 28 percent, according to the most recent figures, up from 21 percent two years ago. Moreover, this is probably a low estimate, as the survey was conducted at the beginning of the pandemic.

Three-quarters (75 percent) of those open to the possibilities of online education cite being able to work while studying as an important reason. Almost as many respondents (72 percent) mention the benefits of being able to study regardless of your location.

On the other hand, those who prefer ‘the real thing’ – traditional in-person education – also have their reasons: they want access to their university’s facilities (80 percent) and they would like to meet other students (74 percent).

QS does not report data on the country of origin of its survey respondents. The research agency most likely receives mailing lists from universities, which receive their own individual reports if they take part in the research.

Brexit
QS also asked questions about the influence Brexit has on respondents’ study choices: 11 percent indicate that they are now less likely to apply to universities in the UK, while Canada is receiving more interest. In Europe, universities in Germany, the Netherlands and France are most likely to benefit from Brexit.

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation Taalcentrum-VU

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