The latest series of QS surveys that began in 2020 shows a sense of cautious optimism about the prospects for student recruitment in 2021. A new report, Hope for the Future: How Universities Identify Emerging Opportunities in 2021, surveyed 425 participants working at universities in 61 countries.
Diversification of the market is an objective for many
More than half (45 per cent) of respondents said that the year ahead was optimistic, while 29 per cent were neutral. At the same time, more than a quarter of educators are pessimistic (27 per cent).
When asked if their source markets were trying to diversify, 51 per cent said they were. Another 38% were not sure or were in the consideration stage. Only 11 per cent were not interested in becoming active in a more diverse set of nations.
Measures by which Government could assist
More than half of respondents said they want to see their government make it easier to obtain a study visa for students. Strong proportions also felt that the following measures would help their efforts to recruit international students: setting up multi-country study travel corridors, extending the length of time students can stay in the country on post-study work visas, and setting up more international student scholarships.
Recent intake turns out to be lower than expected
Nearly 6 in 10 teachers said that they enrolled fewer students in their most recent intake than expected; 30 per cent said their intake was significantly lower, and another 27 per cent said it was slightly lower. Approximately a quarter said their hiring went as expected, and a small percentage (15 per cent) said it produced better than expected results.
“QS notes that the results point to market resilience: “Given the widespread and devastating nature of the coronavirus crisis, a promising indication of the strength of the international student market is the fact that 27 per cent of respondents saw their expected levels of recruitment, and a combined 15 per cent saw more than expected.
With COVID-related fears and travel restrictions, the main reasons cited educators who did not achieve the recruitment goals they expected pointed to several factors why students did not enrol.
Few potential losses to other nations
Only 16% of educators said their intake was affected by a trend of prospects choosing another country to study because it was perceived that the country was better able to cope with the COVID crisis. However, more than 4 in 10 of that 16 per cent estimated that they had lost upwards of 50 per cent of their prospects to other nations. 26% thought that they might have lost more than 70% of their prospects in this way.
Measures used to boost admissions
Understandably, because of COVID restrictions, many educators have faced the recruitment challenges presented by traditional language tests being canceled and students facing more financial hardship and travel restrictions in the pandemic. 18% have admitted international students without test scores so far, and a quarter has offered tuition discounts to students who have stayed to study in their home countries.
In 2021, 29% of teachers said they are planning to offer tuition discounts to students who have to start their programs online, lower than 44% who say they do not consider this incentive.