2021 in focus: Emerging priorities spell shifting pursuits for international students

In the competitive career landscape of COVID-19, international students deserve real returns on the resources and time they invest in studying abroad.  As the pandemic continues to impact on the jobs market in 2021, students face dual dilemmas: the financial feasibility of their study abroad aims and the security of their postgraduate ambitions.  As a result, they are not only starting to study in alternative destinations and virtual environments—they are choosing to pursue different subjects, trending toward programs like mathematics and computer science which offer growing opportunities for employment.  It is a pattern at U.S. institutions that preceded the pandemic, and it will play out in years to come as employability continues to dominate among the priorities of students everywhere.

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Causes for celebration and concern: A three-year perspective on female international students in STEM at U.S. institutions

To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which this year honors the women leading the fight against COVID-19, we consider the ways in which the global pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on female international students in STEM programs at U.S. institutions.  According to data from the U.S. Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), the proportion of female international students in STEM fields in the U.S. grew to new heights in the three years leading up to the pandemic.  However, SEVP’s post-pandemic data shows that COVID-19 has had a more significant negative impact on the number of female international students in STEM in the U.S. than it has on the number of their male peers.

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2020 in the rearview: What discrepancies in pre-pandemic declines imply for U.S. institutions’ recoveries

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, the full impact of COVID-19 on international enrollments at U.S. universities is coming to light. It is important to consider last year’s significant decreases in new international student enrollments (NSEs) in the context of long-term international enrollment phenomena, including declines in NSEs which preceded and were exacerbated by the pandemic. Institutions did not experience these pre-pandemic declines equally, nor will they start post-pandemic recovery from the same position as mobility slowly resumes in 2021.

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The proof is in the partnership: NAFSA, APLU, and INTO analysis finds universities with recruitment/pathway partners are more likely to see international enrollment growth

The release of the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors data this week made for sobering reading among the American higher education community.  Before we provide our take on the findings, we want to offer some key context to the declines we saw in 2019/20. 

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Endowments and international enrollments: How much does your university depend on foreign students? Explore our interactive graphic

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The global flows of international students confer enormous benefits on the countries which receive their talent: more diverse campuses, richer learning experiences for domestic students, more impactful research and much more.  In the context of the United States and COVID-19, Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), has reported on how the presence of international students and immigrants is helping the U.S. fight coronavirus.

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Orientation overhaul: INTO virtually welcomes 2020 cohort to US amidst COVID-19

INTO The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s new student cohort participates in the center’s first virtual orientation.

When the COVID-19 crisis pushed US universities to close campuses and move courses online six months ago, one could scarcely imagine that the fall 2020 semester would find new students starting classes from behind their computer screens.

Even so, the student experience teams at INTO’s US centers have quickly adapted to support students through the unimaginable since the start of the pandemic.  Earlier this month, they overhauled orientation to virtually welcome a new cohort of international students to their respective universities.

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INTO UAB team exhibits resilient leadership in COVID-19 pandemic

The INTO UAB team gathers virtually before the start of the fall 2020 semester.

On July 28, INTO The University of Alabama at Birmingham (INTO UAB) Executive Director David Hofmann led one of a series of virtual, university-wide seminars on resilient leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The session centered on cultural intelligence and international student support during the outbreak.

“I wanted colleagues to understand a little more about what’s happening within the INTO UAB center and what international students’ experiences are during COVID-19,” Hofmann said of his talk.

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COVID-19 in Context: Only the Strong Survive?

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Last month, Moody’s released an investor update headlined,   “Universities with strongest brands, significant scale, highest debt levels best positioned for coronavirus challenges.”  While that may be true for the strongest universities, the increased demand for higher education that will inevitably follow the COVID-19 pandemic means that institutional relevance and the agility necessary to respond to shifting market dynamics will be just as important as scale of brand and strength of the balance sheet when it comes to survival.

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What matters most: Togetherness in INTO’s U.K. centres during COVID-19

Although the INTO London World Education Centre building is closed to in-person gatherings, students and staff look forward to the time when they can return.

More than two months ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced formal lockdown measures to combat the rise in new COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.  For many in the U.K., that announcement signaled the start of physical distancing.  However, Qingying Lin, Chinese-language support officer at INTO Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), recalls that her centre had moved all face-to-face learning and extracurricular support online by March 18—five days before the PM’s announcement.

INTO’s 10 other U.K. centres transitioned to digital provision along similar timelines, which means that they have now passed 10 weeks of distance education and support of their respective international student cohorts.  Perhaps paradoxically, what has struck our student support teams most during quarantine is the togetherness they and their students have maintained across that distance—a testament to their agility and resilience.

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COVID-19 in context: What can we learn from previous shocks to tertiary mobility?

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I was delighted to participate in a webinar hosted by the Center for Studies in Higher Education at University of California, Berkeley on May 7, exploring the extent to which COVID-19 will shape international student mobility.  The full seminar is available on YouTube, but I outline my thoughts on the ways in which the Asian financial crisis of 1997 might provide some insight into how sudden shocks can alter the trajectory of global student mobility below.

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