Pandemic not dimmed the appeal of overseas higher education

International education programmes and qualifications body, Cambridge International, has just released findings from its latest annual Destinations Survey.

Image of lightbulb with globe and mortar board on top
The survey asks schools across the globe where their Cambridge International AS & A Level students from the previous year have chosen to go to university, and what subjects they have elected to study. The research, gathered from 300 Cambridge schools worldwide, found the turbulent past year has had a significant influence on student choices.Eighty-four percent of schools surveyed reported that many of their students had changed their minds about their first-choice destination or university – largely as a result of general uncertainty, difficulties with travel or financial hardship caused by the pandemic. However, despite the pandemic, Cambridge students’ desire to continue their higher education overseas has not changed. Over a third of Cambridge students are still estimated to have progressed to universities outside of their own country in 2020. 
Related reading from Relocate Global

Greater awareness of international study 

While the pandemic had a big influence on the decisions students took about their next educational steps, the research also found that students are becoming more aware of the wide range of study options available to them internationally.A quarter of schools say the trend for Cambridge students going to university outside their own country is increasing. When asked why, many cite a greater awareness of international education and a perception that overseas study can offer a greater choice of courses and wider career opportunities.

New horizons for international students

Many teachers surveyed reported a diversification in the countries that students are prepared to consider, with a particular increase in applications to universities in Turkey, Germany, Canada, Indonesia, UAE and the Netherlands.Those responding to the survey felt one reason for this was that overseas universities in a wider range of countries are increasingly offering a greater choice of courses, which gives students wider career opportunities.

Reputation and future careers key considerations

In addition, looking at the top four international destinations (UK, US, Canada and Australia), 76% reported they chose the UK because of strong university reputation, whilst 73% reported they chose Canada because it was the most attractive for future job opportunities. Sixty-six percent cited university reputation as the reason for choosing a US university, and 34% chose Australia because they were interested in exploring the region.The UK remains a popular destination for students in Europe and China. Over a quarter (26%) of Cambridge students who chose to go abroad to university took up places in UK universities.

Financial decisions

Some respondents reported there is also greater awareness of scholarships and funding, which makes going to university overseas more financially viable. The global economic downturn means more students are looking for more cost-efficient solutions for university study.When asked why students chose a certain country, Turkey scored the highest (62%) for being good value for money, followed by Netherlands (61%) and Malaysia (60%).

Impact of the pandemic 

Overwhelmingly, 84% of schools said the Covid-19 pandemic had a major impact on students’ Higher Education decisions in 2020. Three out of five (62%) schools said some of their students delayed or deferred university due to general uncertainty and wanting to avoid travel away from home. The impact of Covid-19 on location choice was so important that 43% of schools had at least some students change their plans to study at another university. The ongoing travel restrictions imposed by various governments has made it difficult for students to travel to some traditional destinations, such as the UK and US. For instance, only 17% of students chose the US as their preferred destination, a sharp drop from 34% in 2019. 

Successful year for Cambridge International students

Commenting on the findings, Kevin Ebenezer, Head of Global Recognitions at Cambridge International said, “We know the pandemic has created a huge amount of pressure on education globally, and this is reflected in the findings which clearly show it has affected students’ university choices."However, despite such a challenging year, it is positive to see that an estimated 70% of Cambridge students went on to attend a top-500 globally ranked university in 2020, compared to 68% in 2019.“I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our students, and the ongoing support of their teachers, which has meant our students have been able to achieve their Cambridge qualifications and progress to university despite all the challenges they have faced. I wish them all the very best for the future.”

Follow for more education and schools news and features from Relocate Global 

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online Directory

Related Articles