Olivia Rusu

Smart international student recruitment in uncertain times – EAIE Community Moment with Edwin van Rest


On Friday the 24th of April 2020, Edwin van Rest, Founder and CEO of Studyportals joined Laura Rumbley, Associate Director, Knowledge Development and Research at European Assocation for International Education (EAIE) in a webinar on smart international student recruitment.

Their conversation covered key challenges such as travel restrictions, visa difficulties and economic uncertainties, as well as, international student recruitment trends and insights for institutions looking to limit the damage.

Read the summary below or check out a recording of the webinar HERE.

For more data-driven insights and research on COVID-19 impact on international recruitment, visit Studyportals’ Covid-19 resources 

Students’ main concerns

Due to COVID-19, students are facing a variety of obstacles regarding their study plans. Studyportals is surveying students since March 20th to understand their concerns and the impact on their study plans.

Overall, students are anxious. Around 40% of new students are planning to change their study plans as a result of COVID-19. They consider to postpone their plans, or start their studies online, or go to a local university instead. Almost no students consider cancelling their study plans, which is some good news for institutions.

Differences in student perceptions typically depend on the origin of the student and their intended destination. For example, there is a considerable difference between EU and non-EU students. By far the biggest concern for non-EU students is the delay of visa applications. Also, travel restrictions and closed borders are aspects that are being monitored.

Another concern is their own health and therefore the health care system of the study destination country. For the students’ parents, health is obviously one of the priorities but also, that the student can travel home easily in case of an emergency.

Finances or expectations about fee discounts don’t seem to be a huge issue yet. This is because the current situation is likely to only be temporary with for example courses that start online and then continue on-campus as soon as possible.

Smart International Recruitment

In uncertain times like these, institutions can stand out by showing compassion, being flexible and sensitive. Top things that institutions should be doing:

  • Be present for students
  • Communicate excessively about health and safety
  • Be compassionate and flexible, e.g. offer to postpone the semester start or start courses online
  • Lobby with visa and administration offices to create flexibility for international student visas
  • Think in scenarios. Studyportals mapped student mobility scenarios until 2022 from “contain” to “escalation”. We hope for the best, but it is wise to prepare for impact.

Higher Education community can be proud

Although the education industry got hit hard and there is a lot of uncertainty about the future, people and the community always came first. Tough decisions had to be made by changing operating plans, but the education sector made immense progress – that would normally take years to happen –  in only 2 months. While the work has become more difficult, it has also become more important.

There will be a lasting improvement in the flexibility towards students. Due to digital teaching, there is an opportunity to provide access to more students that have a need for higher education.

Our education community is connecting this beautiful world and makes it a more tolerant, understanding, prosperous, and equal place.

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