International students from source nations like India and Nigeria are heading to Canada, the UK and the US in record numbers – despite the pandemic, shows a new research led by the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University, even as Australia and New Zealand experience a dramatic drop in new international students.
The research reveals a complex situation where the pandemic affected international students from around the world differently.
The report found that while the first pandemic waves caused a huge fall in new international students, countries that have opened to such students have rebounded strongly. The UK has recovered the strongest. Its number of new international students is at record levels – 38% higher than pre-COVID.
The numbers of new students from China are still below what they were pre-COVID. For India and Nigeria, the numbers remain peaking.
Countries applied different levels of restrictions throughout 2020 and 2021, altering normal enrolment patterns. A chart showed the depth of falls in new student visas issued in 2020 after the pandemic began. Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US experienced falls greater than 80%. By the September 2021 quarter, Canada, the UK and the US had rebounded to record levels for the available data on student visas. The quick return to an upwards trend suggests there is pent-up demand from students waiting for borders to open. If so, new international students should enrol in larger numbers when travel to Australia and New Zealand becomes more possible.
In terms of students moving to foreign shores to study, Nigeria has rebounded the strongest, driven largely by an increase in Nigerian students studying in the UK. New international students from India have also increased by about 27% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Behind this increase lie shifts in student choice.
The number of Indian students going to Australia fell by 62% in the 12 months to September 2021 compared to 2019. In contrast, new Indian international students to the UK more than doubled, jumping by 174%. India has overtaken China as the largest source country of international students.
While the pandemic has had a massive impact on international education, the scene is set for a return to a highly competitive global market.