2020-21 has been a year of losses, hardships and shutdowns affecting businesses and economies at large. And hence people from all walks of life began looking at risks and opportunities from the prism of the pandemic. Health and health care facilities had never been so important to institutions and hence post-pandemic, universities across nations, woke up to the realisation that good health care facilities are as important as good quality education.
The only certainty is uncertainty, and these words have never felt truer than they do today. Not just students vying for studies abroad, but even international universities adapted blended education – online and on-campus learning, thereby offering ample opportunities for students to pursue their dreams.
If figures are to be believed, in 2016 over 3.71 lakh students had travelled abroad for studying which rose to 4.56 lakh in 2017, 5.20 lakh in 2018 and 5.88 lakh in 2019. There had been a steady rise of 15 per cent Y-O-Y on an average. However, there was a drastic drop in 2020 with only 2.61 lakh students being able to travel due to Covid-19 implications and travel restrictions. It is interesting to note that India after China has emerged as the second-largest exporter of students as over 10 lakh students are studying abroad.
The pandemic changed student’s perceptions, aspirations and challenges as well as international universities attempts on getting students to join their campuses. Let us look at some factors that have changed the trend of studying abroad.
Online mode of learning
Universities across the globe took significant decisions to ensure that their existing and prospective students remain unaffected by undergoing a massive change in their conduct of administration and by switching to a virtual mode of delivering education. This helped students from wasting a year and could also study from the safety of their homes. Universities also resorted to online entrances, assessments, interviews and remote examinations. Some also offered financial aids and special scholarships for blended learning which begins online and later can be transferred to an on-campus learning experience once the travel bans get lifted.
Zeal to study abroad
Despite the uncertainty, students pursuing studies abroad are not just craving for a holistic experience that involves quality education, international exposure and a chance to learn from world-renowned faculty and better employability, but are looking at safety, health and sanitation as deciding factors. And hence universities vying for international students are upping their ante and rapidly shifting towards e-learning and virtual learning models to create an impact on the decisions of students, especially Indians.
There has been a paradigm shift in the country preferences of Indian students – earlier USA, UK, Canada and Australia were the preferred destinations. But today students are looking at countries like the United Arab Emirates as possible choices as the country is not only opening its borders but also getting its 18+ students vaccinated.
A surge in demand for international institutes
As most of the students had to cancel or postpone their travel plans for their dream institute, there is a possibility of a surge in demand for students aspiring to study abroad once things roll back to normalcy. But given the second wave of the pandemic hit the livelihood of many developing nations, students need to be optimistic, stay ahead of their goals and work towards fulfilling them by securing admissions in their dream countries.
Upskill the resume with utmost diligence
The flipside of the pandemic is that students have become more conscious of their career choices and are exploring courses that are future-proof which can sustain longer in case a similar situation ever arises. Careers in artificial intelligence, data sciences, machine learning, media, digital marketing, and medical services are emerging as the most sought-after career options. Also, fields like genomics, virology, pharma, biotechnology are becoming career choices. In order to build a promising future, students need to upgrade their specialisation with changing times. Apart from the popular courses like MBA, engineering and MBBS, specialised courses like cybersecurity, data science, project management are also trending in 2021.
Factors determining the choice of university
Earlier factors such as the reputation of the institute, its ranking, its faculty, its student body, job prospects, clubs and other activities would be the key factors while selecting the dream university. However, the focus has now shifted to health care facilities as the pandemic is expected to last for some more time and hence the presence of certified health care practitioner has become inevitable.
Although studying abroad transforms lives and brings the change one intends to see, it is important for students to keep pursuing their dreams by channelizing energies in the right direction.