Cara Skikne

The impact of COVID-19 on student plans


On March 20th we started running a survey to monitor how prospective international students are perceiving the impact of COVID-19 on their study plans and intentions to study abroad. To date, the survey has been completed by 853 prospective students around the world. We have published preliminary and partial results in previous blog posts, the first looking at the first reactions up to March 26th, and the second looking at differences between intended different start dates.

In this edition, we decided to take a closer look at five main questions:

  1. Are students more likely to change their study plans due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
  2. What changes are students considering most?
  3. Which intakes are most likely to be impacted?
  4. What destinations are most likely to be impacted by these changes?
  5. Are students more committed to their decision to study abroad if they’ve spent more time considering their options?

Changing minds

Overall, 36% of students are saying that they are changing their study plans due to the virus outbreak. When breaking down the respondents based on the dates they’ve filled in the survey, we can see some differences between the different response batches.

31% first respondents in March had mentioned a change of plans, and that number steadily grew to 40% by the first week of April.

Studyportals COVID-19 survey_Overall change of plans by batches


Options to consider

In terms of the options students are considering the most, postponing their enrolments has become the most popular option mentioned by half the students who are changing their option, with the second most popular option being enrolling in an online course or degree. For 21% of the students changing their options, no longer going abroad is also on their mind, with smaller numbers (12%) considering just changing their destination country, and 11% considering skipping studying all together for the time being.

Changes covid-19 responses

Intake impact

Interestingly, students most likely to say they are changing their study plans are not the ones to start immediately this autumn intake, but rather those planning to begin their studies six months to a year from now. One possible explanation is that students planning to study within the next six months might be more committed to their plans since they’ve already done their research and submitted their applications, and some might have even started their visa processes, while students at an earlier stage might see more difficulties in graduating in time, being able to sit their English language tests or even afford to go study abroad.

Studyportals COVID-19 survey_change of plans based on start timeline

Destination impact

Are all destinations impacted equally by students changing their study plans? Yes, and no. When looking at the top three destinations they are considering, there were no significant differences between students considering studying in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or the Netherlands, with 35-39% of them saying they were considering changing their plans. Only Germany stands out, as fewer students considering Germany also mentioning they are changing their plans (28%). One hypothesis is that so far Germany has been portrayed as a success story in the fight against COVID-19, reporting fewer deaths and therefore maybe looking like a safer study destination at the moment.

Country differences

Does it matter how long you’ve been considering options?

One last hypothesis we wanted to test is that students would be less inclined to change their study options if it’s something that they’ve been researching for a longer time. While we do notice some differences between students who have just started their study choice process saying that they are changing their plans, the same is also true for those already researching their options for over 1 year, though less for students who’ve started between 6 months and a year ago.

Studyportals COVID-19 survey_change of plans based on study timeline


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