72% of prospective international students open to pursuing online studies this year

And 47% of EU students would pursue studies from a UK institution online, according to research from Quacquarelli Symonds

New research from Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) has found that 72% of aspiring international students are open to the prospect of pursuing their studies online this academic year.

In a study published as part of QS’ continuing research on the impact of COVID-19 on the global higher education (HE) sector, the HE think-tank hopes to map the changing dynamics of the coronavirus outbreak on the international student market. QS sought responses from over 30,000 prospective global learners – with more than 8,800 students voicing their interest in studying in the UK.

According to the survey, Chinese and Indian students were most reluctant to pursue their degrees remotely this year, while overall, the data highlights similar levels of interest from EU and non-EU students when it comes to learning online in 2020.

Of the 72% of students open to digital studies this year, 46% are willing to earn their degree entirely online, while 26% say they are unsure of their decision at this stage. In total, only 28% of prospective international students were opposed to the idea of online studies.

When it comes to prospective students from the EU, almost half (47%) said they would still commit to studying with a UK HE provider if the programme was offered online, while a further 20% opposed the idea. This compares to 45% of non-EU students who are supportive of digital delivery, and 27% who oppose it.

In related news: Students must be warned of programmes delivered online, says the OfS

On top of this, almost two-thirds (62%) of international students looking to study in the UK have had to alter their plans due to the COVID-19 crisis – an increase of 2% on figures seen in early April.

Fifteen percent of respondents said their plans have not been affected by the outbreak – an increase of 1%; while 24% are uncertain of how their plans might be impacted – a decrease of 2%.

Almost half (49%) of Chinese survey respondents and more than a third (36%) of Indian students are not willing to begin their university studies this year if their programme were to be delivered online, while only a fifth (20%) of German students were against the prospect, and 30% of US students perceived digital delivery as an educational barrier.

“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,” said Nunzio Quacquarelli, CEO of QS.

“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.”

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