Is in-person learning irreplaceable? Agent perspectives on emerging and enduring international education trends in the context of COVID-19

Over the last 22 months, education agents have offered higher education institutions a lifeline to prospective international students around the world. Continuing to support students in finding their best-fit universities through initial lockdowns and subsequent case surges, agents have also been the first to register the inevitable changes in study abroad decision-making brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

INTO’s recent, global agent survey shows that, across the board, agents feel study abroad aspirants are increasingly price-sensitive and focused on securing a stronger return on their investment from their international degree, especially in terms of career outcomes. At the same time, though agents anticipate student demand will return to face-to-face learning, they have registered increased interest in blended delivery among rising international students — a definite departure from pre-pandemic preferences. Amid these emerging and enduring trends, one thing is clear: flexibility must feature in the international education sector’s strategies to engage and support students as they navigate the new terrain before them.

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Education agents: separating the mythology from the reality

phone studentDigital native students all over the world can receive information online, can monitor league tables and can of course apply unassisted to university. Yet, how many students in the United Kingdom or United States apply without the guidance of a high school counsellor or sixth form tutor? It is almost unthinkable that any student should apply without guidance and support.

International students studying outside their home country use agents and education counsellors to help select their future study options – a pattern evident even in the most sophisticated Asian markets like Japan, Korea and Taiwan where all students have permanent online access. Why? Because the choice is bewildering and students who are non-native speakers of English find the process of dealing with overseas universities complex and intimidating.

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