How COVID-19 has Changed the Course of Higher Education in 2020

QS has released its final coronavirus report for 2020, covering how the survey findings and insights have shifted over the course of the year.

The coronavirus crisis has significantly shaped the global higher education sector throughout 2020, and this will undoubtedly continue into the new year.  

Despite this challenging climate, institutions, staff, and students are looking towards 2021, leveraging the vast array of online learning tools and platforms that have become the norm and adapting as new medical and governmental guidance is released.  

In the final QS coronavirus report of 2020, Higher Education in 2020: How COVID-19 Shaped this Year, it’s revealed that a significant minority of students are feeling more hopeful about studying in 2021 thanks to the recent announcements of the development of multiple coronavirus vaccines. 

Nearly a quarter (21%) of prospective international students stated that the introduction of a potential coronavirus vaccine has made them want to start their studies earlier.  

However, 43% of prospective international students said that the vaccine news had made no difference to their plans. 

These respondents cited reasons such as it not yet being clear when the vaccine would be widely available, or that they are planning to start their studies in 2021 and assume things will be back to normal by then. 

When commenting on these findings, Managing Director of QS, Jessica Turner, said: “Our latest insight shows that a potential COVID-19 vaccine would prompt many international students to bring forward their plans for studying abroad.  

While some universities did not suffer the reduction in international students at the start of the academic year that many had feared, a significant proportion of current international students did not travel to their study destination of choice due to either a lack of face-to-face teaching provision or travel restrictions. 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.” 

In the November intake of survey findings, 57% of surveyed prospective international students stated that they expect to start their studies in 2021, while 25% expect to start in 2022. 

Additionally, 67% of respondents stated that they would ideally like to start their studies in 2021, suggesting that interest is still high but that some students may feel pessimistic about their chances of starting in 2021.  

With vaccines potentially set to be distributed in the new year or earlier and international student interest remaining strong, higher education institutions can look forward to positive shifts in 2021.  

To discover more insights about how higher education has changed over the course of 2020, please download your free copy of the QS report, Higher Education in 2020: How COVID-19 Shaped this Year. 

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