The future of international higher education may be brighter than we thought

For nearly a year the whole world, and that includes the higher education world,
has been gripped by the chaos caused by COVID-19. We know that since April
2020, the number of higher education students whose education was disrupted
was approximately 1.598 billion worldwide.

But this week’s bulletin of information will shed a bright light on some of the
positive indicators in international higher education.


The latest QS research report, on prospective international students’ study plans,
revealed that global interest in study abroad remains high.

A January 2021 QS survey of 425 administrators working in colleges and
universities in 61 countries, revealed that nearly half reported feeling optimistic
about the year ahead.

Moody’s Investors Service projects that graduate student enrollment will increase
this year.

NYU/Shanghai has received nearly 19,000 applications for the fall 2021 semester,
a 12% increase over last year. And applications from countries other than China
increased 53%.

(The number of first year places at NYU/Shanghai is 500! What admission director
wouldn’t like to have that problem?)

India is about to open up its higher education system to colleges and universities
worldwide. The University Grants Commission has recently put the final touches
on a draft agreement that would allow academic collaboration between Indian
institutions of higher education and international colleges and universities for
joint degrees, dual programs, and twinning programs.

The German Academic Exchange Service expects that the reset of transatlantic
relations between Europe and the United States will result in increased academic

Applications from international students to schools in the United States are up
9%, as of January 22 nd, compared to 2019-20. Applications from Indian students
have increased 28%, 12% from Nigerian students, 23% from students from the
United Kingdom, and 14% from Brazilian students.

International enrollment to colleges and universities in the UK increased to a
record high last year, driven by a 17% increase in non-EU students. Applications
from Hong Kong and mainland China rose to its highest ever record. Driven by
growth numbers from China and India, the total number of international students
in UK colleges and universities surpassed 500,000 for the first time to reach

Admittedly, there are still statistics and data to support the negative impact of
COVID-19 on colleges and universities. For example, schools in Australia and some
schools in northern Canada, as well as small, private, tuition driven schools in the
United States, cannot, at this time, report robust enrollment.
It will take time and thoughtful analysis to determine the long-lasting impact of
the virus on higher education. These few early positive worldwide statistics
indicate that it may be too soon and too imprudent to write now the next chapter
in international higher education.

In the weeks to come I will be researching schools that have successfully
diversified their enrollment markets, offered robust online and in person
instruction, offered career counseling and lifelong learning opportunities to their
students and collaborated with colleges and universities nationally and
internationally, resulting in reimagined colleges and universities.
One final note: We have yet to realize what the change in the political climate and
administration in the United States will mean to the future of higher education
not only in the United States by throughout the world. More on this in the weeks
to come.