Excited for fall: Why 98% of international students are ready to return

Even with COVID-19 still lurking and uncertainty lingering on many campuses, they see opportunities.
By: | June 30, 2021
In this higher ed research roundup, UB details reports on academic dean salary trends, workforce preparation findings, and ways to improve your international admissions website.

Despite slight uneasiness about heading abroad in the fall, the large majority of international students are thrilled about a return to in-person learning.

A robust 98% of those seeking degrees in the United States and United Kingdom say they are very excited or somewhat excited about heading back to campuses, according to a new report released by INTO University Partnerships.

INTO surveyed 625 students across 80 countries – from Bahrain to Brazil – and found that the largest contingent who were positive about looking ahead to the future, even in a still-cloudy COVID pandemic, were those bound for U.S. institutions (63%).

“The survey results prove that seeking an international degree in the U.K. and the U.S. remains hugely popular among overseas students despite the challenges and uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Olivia Streatfeild, CEO of INTO University Partnerships, which partners with universities across the world to boost their reach in connecting with international students. “This confidence and interest are positive signs of recovery for the higher education sector, which has suffered tremendous losses due to the pandemic.”

INTO says the lockdown of international students over the past year was costly for institutions, both in terms of enrollments and finances. Globally, they contribute around $300 billion each year to higher education, with around $38 billion being infused into U.S. colleges and universities.

Inside the numbers

International students surveyed said they are most looking forward to how these four areas of higher education can enhance their learning and opportunities this fall:

  • Boosting career prospects (75%)
  • The high-quality instruction (69%)
  • Intercultural exchange (62%)
  • Engaging with students from across the world (62%)

To make that happen, colleges and universities welcoming back international students must ensure supports are in place to bring them back. More than 45% of students say they are a little anxious about returning during the pandemic, and another 35% wonder about having to adjust again to the campus environment, which may or may not include mitigation protocols. Nearly 20% worry about the potential for feeling homesick.

In addition, they are facing potential adjustments to their education paths as employers shift their needs. Institutions must continue to pivot to meet those demands.

“Pre-COVID, the world of work was already intensely competitive, and the pandemic has radically altered the job market,” Streatfeild said. “International students will need greater support on employability to make their investment worthwhile. This gap must be addressed to sustain the strong interest in international education.”