Border opening supports international students to study abroad

The international education market was hit significantly as the borders remained closed in countries like the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the US over the past two years. While the announcement of reopening them started in November 2021, the Omicron wave of COVID-19 again disrupted international students' return to the universities in these countries. With the tide receding in many countries, travel restrictions have been eased, allowing the students to study in their desired destinations.

While the US continues to welcome fully vaccinated travellers, including international students, the UK has extended its list of countries from which vaccinated travellers are now accepted, including China, Macau, and Iran. The list recognises most countries and territories for entry into the UK. The country has also lifted the requirement for a ‘Day 2’ COVID-19 test on arrival, making it easier to arrange travel and freely move around.

Meanwhile, Australia has allowed the entry of international students, provided they are fully vaccinated and have tested negative for COVID-19. This means they can now study on-campus at universities in Australia. New Zealand also recently announced a gradual re-opening of international borders from next month.

Since the opening, more than 56,000 international students have arrived in Australia since November 2021 – and 7,000 of those arrived between 23 January and 30 January 2022 alone. The demand among international students to study in Australia appears to be strong as 50,000 student visa applications get filed since late 2021. In fact, the numbers of students from India and Nepal have increased the most. Together, they account for over 50% of the increase in the past six weeks.

In the US, international students have been returning to colleges and universities with a 4% annual increase in the fall of 2021 and the UK aims to increase its global market share of international students by a third, from 450,000 to 600,000 by 2030.

While these early signs of recovery look promising, the impact of the omicron wave on enrolments is somewhat unpredictable at this point. Sustaining the recovery of the international education market is a longer-term project, and for the countries to revive their global competitiveness, universities should focus on creating a world-class student experience.

This comes as great news for the international students to make the most of the excellent higher education provision and cultural immersion opportunities to achieve their learning goals and career ambitions and make meaningful connections with people worldwide.