online learning
@QS_Corporate - the higher education think-tank and compilers of the QS World University Rankings, have found that 72% of international prospective students remain open to the prospect of starting their studies in the UK this academic year, even if it means beginning their course online. 

The data published today, forms part of QS’ ongoing research into the impact of the coronavirus on global higher education, which began in February and highlights the changing dynamics of the COVID-19 crisis on the international student market. QS has heard responses from over 30,000 prospective international students from across the world as part of the findings – over 8,800 of whom are interested in studying in the UK. 

QS further found that Chinese and Indian students were some of the most reluctant to start their degrees online this year. However, the new data shows that there were similar levels of EU and non-EU students open to starting their studies online in 2020 overall. 

The key trends since QS last reported on the data at the start of April are as follows: 

  • Of the 72% of students open to starting their studies this year online, 46% said they would start their studies this year even if it was online with a further 26% stating that they were unsure at this stage – only 28%said they were opposed to the idea.
  • 47% of EU students said they would start their studies in Britain if it was online, with 20% opposing the idea. This is compared to 45% of non-EU students who support the idea and 27% who oppose starting their studies online this year.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of international students interested in the UK have had their plans to study abroad affected by COVID-19 – an increase of 2% from early April. 
  • Over one in seven (15%) of these overseas students have said their plans have not been affected – an increase of 1% - and 24% of students remain uncertain about the impact on their plans, a decrease of 2%.
  • Across all respondents to the survey, almost half (49%) of students from China and over a third (36%) of Indian students do not want to start their studies this year if they were to begin online. Only a fifth (20%) of German students were against starting their studies online this year, while 30% of US students saw it as a barrier.

The data comes as the Government begins to ease restrictions and looks to help the economy recover from the significant impacts the virus has had over the last two months. 

Commenting on the findings, CEO of QS Nunzio Quacquarelli, said:

“It is not surprising to see the stabilisation in the data on international students’ study plans for the next year, which gives us a clearer picture of the impact that the virus will have on the UK HE market. Whilst it is going to cause short-term disruption and uncertainty, our data shows there are reasons to be optimistic for the HE sector. We maintain that this suggests the main impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student flows will be one of timing, and British universities can help to mitigate the impacts by ensuring they are well-prepared to offer online learning into the next academic year.

"It is also vital that Government and the HE sector work together to promote their study destinations and communicate effectively with international students. With the overwhelmingly positive economic and social impact that students have in the UK and across the world, continuing to welcome overseas students will form a key part of the post-COVID-19 recovery. With the aim of helping this recovery, we will continue to publish our research and insights, and we hope that this offers some clarity to institutions and policymakers during this uncertain and challenging period.”

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