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International Students Remain Willing To Quarantine And Get Vaccinated To Get That All Important In-country Experience

Aspiring international students remain committed to their global study goals and are willing to vaccinate and quarantine in return for on-campus study and the experience of living abroad, despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.

Although the majority (75 per cent) of students expect to commence their studies as planned, student confidence has dropped by five per cent since the October 2020 study, suggesting some students are growing tired of the uncertainty and prolonged disruption.

While there has been much debate on whether an online offering can truly replace the on-campus experience, the survey findings reinforced that students want traditional face-to-face learning, with only 10 per cent of students stating they will commence a course entirely online.

Demonstrating students’ resilience and willingness to compromise, 43 per cent of respondents said they would start online only if the course later transitioned to face-to-face. While 31 per cent of students said they would defer until face-to-face teaching became available, 11 per cent remain undecided as to whether they would start online or wait for face-to-face and four per cent will withdraw their application if the situation does not improve.

Respondents stated the lack of the international experience was the key factor stopping them from commencing online-only study, and 39 per cent of students reported they were likely to switch destination if it meant they could access face-to-face learning earlier. Furthermore, 30 per cent of respondents said they would switch destinations to undertake face-to-face teaching even if this meant forgoing a scholarship offer.

The findings form part of the fourth instalment of IDP Connect’s International Student Crossroads research, which examined the attitudes and behaviours of international student applicants and offer holders as well as current students.

The latest research surveyed more than 6,000 respondents from more than 57 countries, all of whom hold aspirations or current applications for studying at higher education institutions in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The study also found the majority of international students (55 per cent) have revealed they will get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, suggesting destinations which insist on vaccinations were not deterring students. A further nine per cent have already been vaccinated and 30 per cent remain hesitant, stating they need more information about the vaccines before taking their next steps – highlighting a communications priority for governments and institutions. The remaining six per cent stated that they are willing to wait until Vaccine Passports are no longer needed.

Student perceptions of the destination countries were also tested and overall, Canada received the highest rating – particularly for its policies for international students and post-study work visas, while the US continued to lag in last place. New Zealand was rated as having responded best to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by Australia. The UK was perceived to be the middle of the pack in almost all categories.

Andrew Barkla, CEO of IDP Education, said although the results only showed a marginal decline in students’ confidence in being able to commence their studies as planned since October 2020, countries that were lagging in catering for international students needed to move swiftly.

“Urgency is key. Countries such as Australia need to give students reassurance and outline a roadmap for how international students are able to enter the country safely and commence on-campus learning, and a timeline for a return to face-to-face learning,” Mr Barkla said.

“The research clearly shows that an online offering cannot replace the on-campus experience, nor is it what the majority of students want.

“Students have shown a real willingness to quarantine and vaccinate and are open to starting their studies online. This flexibility and commitment should be repaid with clear and welcoming policies that acknowledge their enormous contribution to the Australian community.

“Canada continues to set the tone in its progressive policies and communication with students, but this approach can be and should be adopted by all major study destinations.

“As countries recover from the impacts of COVID-19, study destinations must be able to articulate their unique education offering in order to remain competitive on the global stage,” Mr Barkla said.

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