24 Nov 2020 17:38 IST

Overseas education trends recover after a year of uncertainty

Countries such as New Zealand with lower cases have become appealing contenders for students going abroad

The infamous Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major upheaval around the globe and initiated a call to action. Economies across the globe have taken a toll because of this unprecedented virus outbreak. Industries have been neutralised, and professionals have been laid off, but certain sectors have managed to survive the storm. Education is one such domain. Institutions worldwide were certainly closed down, but education hasn’t stopped. This year, 88 per cent of the Indian students have expressed their desire to study abroad regardless of the pandemic.

Students from India are some of the best and the brightest minds. Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, heading two of the biggest tech giants in the world, Google and Microsoft respectively, to Dr Raghuram Rajan and Dr Abhijit Banerjee, both of them being the stalwarts of economics in the world. Universities around the world benefit from the contribution made to their student body by these Indian students, who go on to become world leaders and much more.

No stepping back

Based on insights shared by UNESCO, there were 4.7 million international students across the globe in 2019, and 775,000 of those happened to be from India. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, students across India have been forced to rethink their initial choices of international study destinations.

The USA, the UK, Canada, and Australia, have been the most popular study destinations for students, but the pandemic has resulted in students having to re-evaluate their choices and turning their attention to countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, and some students have been considering Universities in the Scandanavian regions as well. Indian students still expressed a strong interest in studying abroad as soon as they were allowed to do so. Travel bans, and economic and political conditions, are some of the major factors that students are taking into account while revisiting their initial choice.

Significant shift

What is worth noting is according to the data provided by UNESCO, Institute of Statistics, the number of Indian students who went to study abroad increased from 67,000 in 2000 to 389,000 in 2019. It’s an insightful deep dive when we actually analyse the data and see where these hundreds of thousands of students ended up going. Although Indian students were mainly attracted to four major countries — the US, UK, Australia, and Canada, in the early 2000s, that has seen a big shift in recent times, and Covid-19 has only made that shift significant. Now the students are more inclined to explore programmes in countries that have not been so drastically hit by the pandemic.

Although in sheer numbers, the US still ranks the most popular country when it comes to thinking of colleges abroad, but the inbound student migration has slipped from 57 per cent to 46 per cent.

Covid-19 has impacted student choices considerably, and the consequent nationwide lockdowns and international travel bans around the world led the Universities to switch to virtual teaching methods. With the Visa applications put on hold indefinitely, the students were left in a bubble of uncertainty.

The international student mobility was significantly restricted in the first half of 2020. Although online classrooms are not a sustainable solution, universities are leaving no stones unturned in order to allow students to attend their classes on-campus again. In the pre-Covid era, factors such as the ease of admissions, education quality, immigration policies, and costs were the key areas of concern for most students.

Since the global pandemic, two of the most important factors considered by students happen to be health safety and minimum risk, while choosing their study abroad destination. Therefore, countries that demonstrate low numbers of Covid-19 cases, such as Sweden, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany have emerged as more appealing targets.

Future predictions post-Covid

As the world slowly recovers from the turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and eases back to normalcy, international travel and visa processing activities are already set to resume in India and other major countries around the globe. Indian students who intend to study abroad are undoubtedly inclined to 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 where the pandemic continues to soar still.

As amendments are made to international travel policies and universities begin to reopen, it is clear that the pandemic hasn’t deterred Indian students to pursue their study-abroad dreams.

(The writers are career coaches at Mindler, a career guidance platform.)