Global interest in study abroad remains high for 2020, 2021

A research report by QS on prospective international students’ study plans shows that global interest in study abroad in the relatively near term (2020 and 2021) remains high as students become more open and willing to consider an online start if this  mode of delivery is temporary –  three to six months.  These are results of QS’s ongoing survey of thousands of international students since February 2020.

The latest survey data shows:

* 59% of students now say that their study abroad plans have been impacted by the crisis.

* 55% intend to delay or defer their study plans until next year.

* The proportion of students wanting to begin studying abroad is 82%, split between 42% for 2020 and 40% for 2021. Only 11% said they would like to begin in 2022 and 8% would want to in 2023.

* 62% said they expected to begin in 2020, a much larger proportion than the 35% who expected to begin in 2021.

* 47% students are interested in online study, with another 27% unsure. The interest in beginning courses online rises to 75% of prospective students if the online component is guaranteed to last for no more than three months. Interest falls slightly when the time frame for online learning expands to six months (64%).

* 54% of respondents have reconsidered where they want to study overseas based on how different governments have handled the coronavirus crisis.

* New Zealand is deemed to have handled the coronavirus crisis the best by students, followed at a distance by China, Germany, and South Korea.


These findings reveal an inherent determination among students, who’ve spent a great deal of time looking forward to studying abroad, to follow through on their plans, in spite of the pandemic. Governmental response to the global crisis and ensuring that their nation is seen to be proactively and effectively addressing the pandemic will be vital to influence student decision.


To successfully convince students, institutions should create and communicate their contingency plans, detailing how their online learning offering will be delivered, how they will transition to face-to-face teaching, and be as specific as they can be on the timelines they will follow to do so. They can further detail the strategic planning being conducted to ensure they are prepared for shifts in government guidance and reassure prospective students that they will act quickly and effectively.

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