The third round of IDP Connect’s International Student Crossroads Research, which examines the attitudes and behaviours of more than 5,000 international students, shows increasingly positive perceptions of countries that have remained open during the pandemic. IDP surveyed current applicants and offer holders to higher education institutions across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States and found that many students are willing to change destinations to fulfil their ambitions for face-to-face learning.
Results showed that the UK and US’s policy of remaining open to international students throughout the pandemic has driven increasingly positive sentiment whilst borders remaining closed in Australia and New Zealand is leading to international students growing restless as they face a drawn-out waiting game. Insider Guides spoke to Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, to discuss what these findings mean for Australia as a student destination and the future of the international student sector as a whole.
Balancing the narrative
In the report of Crossroads III, Mr Emmett states:
“There is a real risk associated with being perceived as a country that is less ‘open for business’. Countries that have communicated strongly that international students are welcome, such as the UK, have seen a rise in attractiveness compared to countries with stricter border controls, such as Australia.”
However, recent news shows the UK implementing widespread restrictions as the country battles a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports that university campuses are at a higher risk of outbreaks. On balancing this narrative, Mr Emmett shared:
“It appears that the number of cases don’t seem to impact their decisions to commence. I think it demonstrates the determination that students have to commence their studies. I don’t know whether they feel that they’re less at risk, but they certainly are resilient based on the answers coming back from the surveys. They’re willing to quarantine and have online starts. Coming back to Australia, it’s really now about a roadmap and about when face-to-face learning will be available. That’s what students are looking for.”
Guaranteeing student safety
With the current absence of a vaccine and the inability to predict how the pandemic might continue to affect the world, it’s important to consider whether planning for the return of students is wise when safety and avoiding additional lockdowns cannot be guaranteed. On this topic, Mr Emmett states:
“Everyone in the sector recognises that safety is paramount. Our role is to help students and the decision makers, like parents, make informed decisions and navigate through the different policies by governments in different territories. [IDP] have been very clear that we’re guiding students based on official guidance and what’s been set out by the chief medical officials and, as you say, it’s that balance between a clear priority of health and safety for students and communities balancing with the huge benefits that international students bring campuses and communities.”
Watch the whole interview with Simon Emmett above. This interview has been edited for clarity.