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International students don’t want online learning, survey says


Students reject online degrees, while UK’s post-study work visa not cutting through

Almost half of potential international students do not want to study online despite the coronavirus pandemic causing problems for international travel, a survey has revealed. The same analysis also shows that only 6 per cent of prospective students know about the UK’s two-year post-study work visa.

A total of 42 per cent of the 78,000 prospective international students questioned by higher education think tank QS Quacquarelli Symonds said they had “no interest at all” in studying online, while the proportion of students who have changed their plans to study in the UK from September rose from 27 per cent in mid-February to 58 per cent by late March.

UK Universities are already bracing themselves for a fall in the number of international students from September, which an analysis from the University and College Union and consultancy London Economics found could contribute to a loss of £2.6 billion next year. Some experts had suggested teaching international students online could be a way to combat the drop in enrolments.

The QS survey also reveals that just 6 per cent of prospective students knew they could stay in the UK for two years after they graduate, and around half (48 per cent) believed they had to leave immediately or could stay up to four months. The reintroduction of the two-year post-study work visa – scrapped by former home secretary Theresa May in 2012 – was announced by the government in September last year.

Commenting on the survey, former universities and science minister Jo Johnson said universities would still rely on recruiting international students “through a completely digital process” while the coronavirus pandemic restricts travel. “With Covid-19 travel bans and social distancing measures in place, university finances and student recruitment strategies are adjusting to painful new realities,” he said.

Johnson added that the two-year post-study period must be “better communicated to prospective overseas students” as awareness is still “relatively low”.

Vice-chancellors’ body Universities UK said it was “more important than ever” for international students to understand the benefits of coming to the UK. A spokesperson said upcoming details from the government on the implementation of the route would “help universities to clearly communicate the process and benefits of the route to international students”.

A more in-depth analysis of the survey will be available in tomorrow’s 8am Playbook.