International student recruitment in 2021. Preliminary results
The professional community was waiting with great attention for the results of the admission campaign to higher educational institutions of the leading countries of the world. Media forecasts ranged from apocalyptic prophecies to hopes of a full-scale overcoming of the crisis. And although the official results will become known later, today it is already possible to analyze the impact of the pandemic on the export opportunities of higher education in the countries where the largest number of foreign students study.

In 2021, the United States continues to maintain its leading position in the export of education. Today, more than 1 million international students are studying in the country, i.e. about one in five of all students who choose to study abroad. The leader's status is overshadowed by the trend that has taken root in recent years to reduce the attractiveness of the "Study in the USA" brand, which is to blame for the harsh anti-migration rhetoric, aggressive foreign policy, and the isolationism of the past administration. Under the influence of all these factors, over the past decade, the country's share in global international mobility has already decreased from 28 to 20 percent. The pandemic has made adjustments to the plans of universities to recruit foreign students. At the undergraduate level, the number of international students at US universities declined by 14 percent in 2020 and 8.2 percent in 2021. The overall decline in the number of international undergraduate students since the start of the pandemic has reached 21.2 percent.

At the same time, the number of students from abroad enrolled in Master's programs after a decrease in 2020 by 7.8 percent, increased by 13.1 percent in the current 2021. In aggregate, over the period 2019–2021, the number of foreigners enrolled in postgraduate programs increased by 4.3 percent.

A solid margin of safety, less dependence of university budgets on income from foreign students as the share of foreign students as a whole does not exceed 5 percent of all students in the country, allow US universities and colleges to gradually adapt to the new reality. In the short term, American universities are counting on a softening of anti-migration rhetoric and a decrease in the degree of the US-China confrontation, which adversely affects the recruitment of students in key educational markets.

The second place in the number of international students is occupied by Great Britain. In the 2019/20 academic year, there were 538,615 international students, which was approximately 10 percent of all studying abroad. In the years leading up to the pandemic, the UK has somewhat lost its lead as the silver medalist in the international academic race. British experts noted with alarm that the country was inferior to competitors in 16 of the 21 key educational markets in the world.

The pandemic and Brexit have made adjustments, but things have not turned out to be as bad as expected. In 2019/20, the number of international students enrolled in their first year of undergraduate programs increased by 10.3%. This happened due to a significant increase in applicants from countries outside the European Union. This category grew by 15.8%. The number of applicants from the EU countries decreased by about 1 percent.

The multidirectional dynamics of the number of these groups are even more noticeable at the master's level. The total number of students at this stage of preparation increased by 18.5% compared to 2018/19, while the number of freshmen from countries outside the European Union increased by

23.6%, while from EU countries, on the contrary, it decreased by 5.7%. It will not be superfluous to note that foreign students from outside the EU bring in about a third more net income than their "classmates" from Europe.

The pandemic has significantly affected the admission of foreign students to the country. The number of student visas issued has decreased, and many students have to study remotely. However, based on the results of two years, it can be argued that compared to its competitors, the UK is going through a period of turbulence much better. The government's goal of reaching the level of 600,000 foreign students by 2030 remains realistic, and the professional community is already seriously discussing getting to the first place, at least even in the preferences of applicants in key local markets.

Australia was the third leading exporting country for education. By mid-2021, the number of international students at the country's universities dropped 12 percent from a record high in 2019, officials said. However, migration statistics paint different and completely disappointing statistics. In October 2019, there were 578,000 student visa holders in the country. By October 2021, this number had almost halved to 266,000. English language programs were even more severely affected, with student numbers declining by 60 percent. High schools targeting international students were missing nearly 30 percent of their students. The university sector, according to the most conservative estimates, lost 24 percent of its income, the English as a foreign sector — 49%. And the situation continues to deteriorate. Suffice it to say that the education sector has already lost 17,000 jobs.

But what makes the position of Australian universities even more difficult is the national policy of closed borders. Attempts by universities and even individual states to bring students to the country run up against an insurmountable wall of migration restrictions. Most experts expect international students to be able to return to Australia no earlier than the second half of 2022. After that, it will take several years to restore the entire system of admission to universities in the country, and this is in conditions when competitors have begun to increase their presence in the main educational markets.

Let's summarize. Higher education as an export branch of the national economy turned out to be one of the most vulnerable in the conditions of closed borders. International students have proven to be particularly sensitive to the rise of isolationism and xenophobia at the local and national levels. According to the October 2021 poll of foreign applicants from 147 countries conducted by the AECC, 27%, and 15%, respectively, have abandoned study plans in the US and Australia. Prolonged closeness and excessive suspicion towards foreign citizens can cause long-term damage to the attractiveness of educational brands "study in ..." Tolstoy with his famous sentence that "all happy families are alike, and every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way," has proved to be correct once again. The educational systems of the leading countries responded to the pandemic's challenges in line with national policies. In its own way. But the practice has already shown that some manage not only to successfully cope with problems but also to take advantage and profit from the misfortunes of another, especially if this misfortune is the result of a conscious and long-term policy of limiting contacts with the outside world.

Alexander Ruchkin
Director of the Grint Centre for Education, Director of Study Abroad programs in Russia for number of leading US colleges and universities, Founder of the Forum for International Education, Co-chairman of the Organizing committee of the annual International Education Fair. Graduated from the History Department of Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov, later completed postgraduate studies at The History department of the Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov. Specialist in the history of Russian emigration. Doctor of Historical Sciences. He headed the Center for International Youth Cooperation, worked as Deputy Rector for International Cooperation and Public Relations of the Moscow University for the Humanities. Organized trainingand professional development programs in Sweden, Great Britain, China. For more than 20 years, he has been the director of training programs in Russia for leading US universities and heads the Center for testing foreign citizens in the Russian language on the basis of the Grint Center for Education and Culture. Since 2015 — the founder.