COVID19 might change plans to study abroad

COVID19 might change plans to study abroad


In the aftermath of the COVID19, there have been numerous discussions with regard to the impact of the pandemic on the sphere of International High Education. Recent decades have witnessed a rise in the number of international students pursuing higher education in US, UK, Australia and Canada (Chinese and Indian students account for a substantial percentage of the international student community in all these countries).


According to UNESCO, there were over 5.3 million international students in 2017, this was nearly thrice the number of 2000 (2 million). The rise of globalization which has led to greater connectivity and more awareness through internet have contributed towards this trend. It would be pertinent to point out, that the global higher education market was valued at a whopping USD 65.4 billion in 2019.

In a post corona world, a number of changes are likely to take shape in terms of higher education

Likely changes in a post corona world: 

-> A Possible drop in Chinese students enrolling in higher education institutions in US, UK, Australia.

The first change likely to occur in a post corona world is a likely drop in the number of Chinese students seeking to enroll at higher education institutions in not just the US, but also in Britain and Australia

In the case of the US, a number of changes have been introduced with regard to student visas for Chinese students. In 2018, certain changes had already been introduced for Chinese students enrolled in Science, Technology Engineering and Management STEM courses. Only recently, further changes have been made in the context of student visas for Chinese nationals. According to the new policy, F1 and J1 visas cannot be issued for graduate level to individuals involved (People’s Republic of China) entities involved with the PRC’s military-civil fusion strategy.

China has warned students planning to pursue higher education in Australia to reconsider their decision given the COVID 19 pandemic, and instances of racism against Asians. Chinese students account for a staggering 28% of the total international community estimated at 7,50,000.

In UK, Chinese students were issued a total of 115,014 visas in 2019 a whopping 45% of the total international study visas issued. Given recent tensions between UK and China after the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, there could be a significant drop in the number of Chinese students enrolling at British universities.

-> Changes in overseas higher education plans 

Second, given the disruptions in international travel, a number of students have revised plans with regard to pursuing higher education overseas. According to estimates, international student enrollment in the US, could drop by 25% which will have a significant impact on the economy (in UK, Australia and Canada too there is likely to be a drop in the number of students enrolled).

-> Online mode of education

Third, Universities have made concessions in terms of entrance tests,  waiving application fees and even financial assistance, so as to ensure that there is not a drop in take. A number of universities have already confirmed that they are shifting to an online mode of education. This includes top Universities in the US and UK including Harvard, Oxford.

-> Immigration policies

Fourth, countries like Canada which have an open door immigration policy, are still likely to be attractive for international students especially from countries like India.

Importance of International Students

What has also emerged from recent developments, is that while certain governments may not be sensitive to the concerns of International Students, universities and even companies realize the value which international students add by way of talent and skills. Two US institutions, Harvard and MIT filed a law suit against the US government (Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Custom Enforcement) for bringing out a notification, according to which international students studying at institutions where classes were being held online would either need to transfer or return home.


Also Read: China-Britain’s worsening feud


All Ivy league institutions and 59 other private colleges signed a court brief supporting the law suit. The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration which includes 180 colleges also lent support to Harvard and MIT. As a result of this law suit, the Trump Administration had to rescind its decision which would have impacted 1 million students.

Commenting on the judgment, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said, “We all recognize the value that international students bring to our campuses, to this nation, and to the world.”


In recent decades, the free movement of students, was taken for granted. Higher education was an important bridge even between countries. In the aftermath of the pandemic, and souring of ties between China and the rest of the world, international higher education is likely to witness major changes. At the same time, the use of technology also provides opportunities, and there is space for greater collaborations between higher education institutions in US, UK, Canada, and those in the developing world.



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COVID19 might change plans to study abroad

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Tridivesh Singh Maini

Consulting Editor, Geopolitics with The Dispatch, Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based Policy Analyst. He is associated with The Jindal School of International Affairs, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, Haryana. He is a former SAV Visiting Fellow (Winter 2016) with the Stimson Centre, Washington DC. Mr Maini was also an Asia Society India-Pakistan Regional Young Leaders Initiative (IPRYLI) Fellow (2013-14), and a Public Policy Scholar with The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy, Chennai (November 2013-March 2014). His research interests include; the role of Punjab in India-Pakistan ties, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the changing nature of Indian federalism.