The impact of COVID-19 on international studies

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Published 2020-04-20 13:00

Studying abroad is the dream of thousands of students around the world. This year, however, many are seeing their dreams being crushed. Others, still, are trying to redefine their plans due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you are one of them, how likely are you to study abroad?

The start of the academic year varies from one country to another – generally  in September in European countries and as from April in Asian countries like Japan and India. This year, however, the university studies around the world are going to be different, even though distance learning is being provided by many universities for their current students. But what about those who are planning to enrol at a university abroad this year?

A survey by the QS website shows how the COVID-19 has compromised the plans of many international students. While many are simply choosing not to go abroad for safety reasons, others are considering postponing their students until next year. As of February 26, 2020, according to QS, only 27% of students said that the coronavirus pandemic had an impact on their plans. A figure that rose to 35% on March 12. However, only 14% of them indicated that they no longer wanted to study abroad, while 54% of them stated that they would prefer to postpone their projects until next year. Taking into account the rapid spread of the epidemic around the world and the risks of a resurgence in some countries, students recognise that no country is currently safer than another.

Rachelle, a Mauritian who was looking to study in the UK, is currently pondering about her future. "I'm looking at the news every day and, definitely, I'm not going to travel abroad this year. Perhaps I'll end up studying here; I'm currently considering the different programs available. Also, my parent's won't allow me to go abroad". A French student, Nathalie, was planning to study in the USA. "We don't know when the situation is going to get any better and when borders will be opened, so I really don't know for know. Besides, I haven't yet received all the documents needed for registration, so I'll probably have to consider something else for now".

Universities around the world

The coming months hold a lot of uncertainty for students – both those who were looking to enrol in a degree course and those who were planning to take part in an exchange program. As most countries around the world have set up strict travel restrictions, you're not allowed to travel unless you really have an emergency. Moreover, many universities have taken measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, and these are likely to have an impact on admission criteria, especially for undergraduate students. For example, due to everything being closed, many students haven't received their high school diploma yet.

In fact, most countries have implemented border restrictions for an indefinite period. It, therefore, remains difficult to go abroad without having really solid or even urgent reasons. What is more, the measures taken by many universities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic may have an impact on the admission criteria for first-year students, for example, obtaining a high school diploma. You are hence advised to seek all relevant information directly from the chosen university. You should also take into account the possible changes to registration procedures as well as deadlines for the submission of applications.

When can you join university then?

France, for example, indicates on its official education portal that universities will remain closed until further notice but specifies that it's not likely to happen before September. No announcement has been made as to the start of the fall semester. Students who are looking to study in France, therefore, have to pay close attention to universities which might take their own decisions.

In Germany, where lockdown has been extended until May 3, students are benefiting from distance learning facilities. Regarding the winter semester, it is expected to start at the latest on November 1st, 2020. So if you were planning to study in Germany, maybe it's not too late.

In Sweden, enrolment for the autumn semester had already been closed in January, so results of admissions to Masters and Bachelor programs were published as usual, on April 3rd and April 20, 2020. However, if you are not yet in Sweden, your plans are likely to be affected by the current travel restrictions. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has a more flexible system. There is no registration deadline for Masters programs, so you can enrol at any time of the year. In any case, inquire at the university of your choice.

Besides, the British government has announced a visa extension for international students who are already in the country and are unable to go back home.