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Student survey results: How has COVID-19 affected your study abroad plans?

Please note: the results enclosed below are for the first 2,500 survey responses collected between Monday March 16th, 2020, and Friday March 20th, 2020. The latest results can be accessed here.

Headline Statistics: The impact of COVID-19 on studying abroad

  • Only 4.7% of prospective students intend to cancel their study abroad plans in light of COVID-19
  • 47.2% of students who are returning home earlier from their studies abroad intend to resume their studies at a later date
  • 68.2% of students currently studying abroad would be interested in studying their program online instead

    Has coronavirus impacted your study abroad plans?

    At, we know the immeasurable value of studying abroad. But, we also recognize that the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) will impact many students' plans to look abroad for higher education opportunities.  

    You may be confused or worried about what COVID-19 means for you and your study abroad plans. We wanted to get an idea of how other students are faring in order to help you make decisions about your own study plans for the future. 

    Based on the 2,500 responses to our recent survey, here are some interesting statistics about how COVID-19 has impacted prospective and current students studying abroad.

    👀 Learn more about what we're doing to help students navigate COVID-19

    Prospective study abroad students

    Q: Has COVID-19 affected your study abroad plans?

    52% of prospective students surveyed feel that COVID-19 has had some kind of impact on their future study abroad plans. However, just under 50% of respondents said that COVID-19 has had no impact on their intent to study abroad. The relatively even split indicates that students are unsure of what the future holds for them, and how long the restrictions caused by the pandemic will continue. 

    It's important to note that the students who responded "no" may have plans for studying abroad further in the future, after they think the COVID-19 crisis may be over. Students' current uncertainty about studying abroad may be fueled by rapidly developing temporary travel constraints implemented by national governments. The responses thus far indicate that students, like many of us, are waiting to see how events unfold.  

    Q: What are your study abroad plans now in light of COVID-19?

    Only 4.7% of prospective students planned to cancel their future study plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This demonstrates that while students are feeling a lot of uncertainty, they are not jumping to cancel their plans. Students dedicate time and resources to their study abroad plans, and aren't looking to throw it all out the window.

    Just over 43% of students intend to postpone their study abroad plans with the goal of resuming studies at a later date. For some students, COVID-19 has not impacted their study abroad plans at all, as 13.4% of prospective students plan to continue their studies as normal.

    Q: Would you be interested in studying if your program was offered online?

    Just under half of students would be interested in an international education online. Given that a vast majority of our student database tend to enquire about study abroad opportunities where they physically go abroad, these responses demonstrate a remarkable interest in studying abroad virtually. The significant interest from potential students in studying abroad online speaks to the significance of universities' existing distance learning options. Furthermore, it may illustrate a potential uptick in distance learning applications in the future. 

    In contrast, 55% of students planning to study abroad would not be interested in an international education offered online. Those students may be more interested in the experiential aspects of studying abroad - experiencing a new culture, language, learning style, and country. COVID-19 hasn't dampened these students' desire to broaden their horizons by studying abroad, but they may be waiting to visit new destinations in person. 

    Students currently studying abroad

    Q: Do you plan to return from studying abroad earlier because of COVID-19?

    Based on the responses we've received so far, there is no one right plan of action for students currently studying abroad in light of COVID-19. The three-way split is likely due to the diversity of circumstances students currently studying abroad find themselves in. Exchange students are still registered students of their home universities, and may be required to fly back to their home countries at their home institution's request.

    Combined, more than 60% of students are not rushing home to pack their bags. The development of COVID-19 is ongoing, and many students are either waiting to see how the virus will impact the country they're studying in, or have decided to stay-put in their study abroad destination. Students currently studying abroad are no strangers to complicated circumstances, the COVID-19 crisis presents a new set of circumstances for them to navigate.

    Q: If you're planning to return home earlier, what are your future study plans post-COVID-19?

    In combination, 68% of students currently studying abroad are avoiding writing off their study abroad experiences. Students currently abroad may have gained a first-hand understanding of the value of an international education, and would like to return to their study abroad destinations once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. 

    Any number of factors can contribute to students' uncertainty or outright cancellation of their study abroad experience. It's clear, however, that a majority of students are not looking to end their study abroad experiences outright. 

    Q: Would you be interested in continuing studies if your program was offered online?

    Students currently abroad continue to prioritize their learning, with a whopping 68.2% of them wishing to continue their education either online or with virtual classrooms. Universities with the capabilities to offer online learning should consider how much value international students place on their study abroad experiences - no matter where they're located. 

    Final thoughts

    COVID-19 has caused students and universities alike to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. The uncertainly being felt by the world in the face of COVID-19 is, unsurprisingly, being mirrored by students.

    It's inevitable that students' study abroad plans and experiences are being disrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19. However, viable study abroad opportunities such as online learning and postponing study abroad plans (rather than cancelling them outright!) speak to international students' perseverance in pursuing their study abroad dreams. Studying abroad remains at the top of many students' bucket lists, COVID-19 has complicated the question of when and how they'll make it happen. 

    Last update: 22 Oct 2020

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