International education has managed to prove that it is a rapidly developing system that can quickly respond and adapt to dramatically changing conditions. International education is a mix of not only science and, in fact, education, but also economics, politics, security issues, international and interethnic relations, cross-cultural communications, etc. These "ingredients" constantly interact with each other and provide new food for thought. There is a lot of interesting news, so the team of the EduView Telegram channel is launching a special column where we are going to write about significant events and trends in international education.
Competing for international students
It's no secret that international education is a large-scale business. Overseas students bring money not only to universities, but also to those cities and countries where they study. They rent apartments, go to cafes, work, use medical services, travel, invite their friends and families to visit, attract new international students, etc. The pandemic has clearly shown the high degree of dependence of many exporting countries and universities on foreign students. Not all countries, however, were able to "save face" during the pandemic and tarnished their image: the most obvious examples are the United States, which, back in July, threatened to deport hundreds of thousands of international students who were in the country, but studied online, and Australia, which excluded international students from support programmes for those who lost their income during the pandemic and soured relations with China due to the increase in cases of racial discrimination and violence against Chinese students.
Overseas student flows have dropped sharply. Now there is competition literally for each student, so countries and universities are using new tools to increase their attractiveness. For example, the UK authorities have announced that distance learning will not prevent foreign students from obtaining the UK's post-study work visa. Even those students who do not graduate this year will be able to apply for the visa, even if part of their studies in the 2020–2021 academic year took place remotely. And for the 2020–2021 academic year graduates completing the last academic semester in the UK will be enough to get the visa.
Canada also pleases students by relaxing the rules for obtaining a post-graduation work permit for them. Under normal circumstances, the student's time outside Canada is deducted from the post-education work permit. Last spring, students were allowed to complete up to 50% of their overseas program without deducting this time from their work permit in case they are unable to arrive in Canada in 2020. In February 2021, the government took another step by announcing that students will be eligible to obtain a work permit after graduation, even if their entire Canadian higher education programme is completed online from abroad.
The availability of COVID-19 vaccines for international students is also becoming an important attraction tool. The UK is again setting a good example by providing international students with access to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. At the same time, older students or those with special medical conditions will be included in the priority vaccination groups.
Australia is trying to redeem itself in the eyes of international youth after the scandal that broke because of increased racial discrimination and violence against Chinese students last year by giving them the opportunity to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. "We need to make sure that everybody who's on Australian soil is safe, and everybody who's on Australian soil has access to protection," said Greg Hunt, the country's Federal Health minister.
The Roads We Choose
The pandemic has definitely made international students much more selective in choosing a university to study at. In January 2020, Times Higher Education (THE) asked prospective international students about what issues they prioritise when deciding where to study abroad. The major concern was finance (availability of funding or scholarships) — 64%, followed by employment prospects after graduation — 59%, general student experience — 58%, and health and safety — 56%. During the year, the answers of the respondents had been changing: from time to time healthcare issues and visa policy came to the fore, but since the summer, the financial aspects of studying and living abroad have become the central issue.
British experts including Matt Durnin, global head of insights and consultancy at the British Council, agree with their colleagues from THE: they believe that in the coming year, issues of health, epidemiological situation and access to health services will become secondary for students and their families. Financial issues related to studying and liv- ing abroad will again come to the fore.
In the UK itself, Brexit has played a significant role: for example, according to preliminary data, the flow of international students from the EU has decreased by 39.5% compared to 2020, but the number of students from non-EU countries has increased by 17%.
As we can see, there is already redivision of the educational services market — not only in Great Britain, but around the world. What is happening in the field of international education promises to become even more interesting, so let's make ourselves comfortable and fasten our seatbelts: the year has just begun.