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COVID-19 Vaccine Gives Hope To International Students

Nearly a quarter of international students consider bringing forward their study abroad plans following the latest COVID-19 vaccine news, says new QS research

Fri Dec 4 2020


In light of the COVID-19 vaccine news nearly a quarter of international students (21%) have said that they want to bring forward their plans to study abroad. That’s according to a new survey released by higher education company, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). 

The new research surveyed 887 prospective international students considering studying abroad from countries around the world including China, India, Pakistan, UK, and the US. 

This is good news for the state of business education. One of the key value propositions of graduate management education is offering students a classroom that reflects the world they’ll be graduating into. International students are a key part of that. 

International students returning to business school

News of three potential coronavirus vaccines—with the UK recently approving the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine—presents hope of a safer environment for international students to travel.

The QS study comes at a crucial point when international students are weighing up whether to stay at home or travel further afield for their education in 2021.

A return to normal levels of student mobility may not be imminent though. Nearly half (43%) of the prospective international students surveyed by QS said news of a potential vaccine has made no difference to their plans. 

Reasons given for this include the lack of clarity around when and to whom the vaccine would be available, or that they’re planning on studying from 2021 assuming normal practice will have resumed by then. 

Research carried out pre-vaccine news by QS also found that 45% of prospective international students said they would only feel comfortable travelling overseas to study when campuses are open and face-to-face teaching has resumed. 43% of respondents said they would travel overseas to study once a vaccine is developed and available.

Jessica Turner, the managing director of QS, explained that a significant proportion of current international students did not travel to their study destinations of choice this year because of lack of in person teaching or travel restrictions. 

And though the news of a vaccine has encouraged some international students to bring forward their plans to study abroad, it will likely take mass vaccination to push higher education back to pre-COVID normality.

“A COVID-19 vaccine will be able to significantly tackle both of these obstacles for prospective students planning to study abroad, which is encouraging news for the future of global higher education,” added Jessica.

How COVID-19 has affected the business school classroom

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) 2020 Application Trends Survey found that demand for business school places increased during the pandemic, with 67% of programs reporting an increase in application volume. 

The report found US application numbers were heightened across the board—up 29.9% for domestic candidates, and 14.7% for international applications. European schools saw a remarkable increase in domestic applications which were up by 50.1%. 

Though international applications were also up year on year in both Europe and the US, international students were also more likely to delay their studies until next year. There was a 15% deferral rate among internationals according to GMAC’s report. 

But the results of the QS survey could imply that international applications may increase further during the upcoming application cycle if vaccination allows for a return to safe student mobility. Along with deferred international candidates, the 2021-22 classroom could be strongly represented by internationals. 

A return to normality won’t be immediate. But news of a COVID-19 vaccine has had a positive impact on the way international students are thinking about the year ahead.

Whether further vaccine developments in 2021 allow for internationals to travel to campus or to consider applying to business school outside of their home country altogether, it looks like good news for higher education, and international and domestic students alike. 

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