Covid-19: intl students’ views on institutional responses

“International students in Germany were most likely to be satisfied with the online learning experience”

While the constantly evolving Covid-19 situation makes it difficult to predict, several studies have shown that students are more likely to delay rather than cancel study abroad plans and it is predicted that demand for study abroad will surge as the pandemic subsides, writes Kyla Steenhart, director of i-graduate New Zealand.

It has also been suggested that there will be a shift in market share post-Covid due to countries’ handling of the crisis.

A recent article by i-graduate drawing on data from a global survey of over 24,000 students in eleven countries looked at governmental responses to Covid-19 alongside students’ satisfaction with their institution’s response by country.

For international students, both current and prospective, it is likely to be not just the host country’s handling of the pandemic, but also their institution’s response that colours their experience and informs future thinking.

So how does the institutional response to Covid-19 compare across countries in the eyes of international students? And how might this contribute to the retention of existing students and recruitment of new ones?

While satisfaction is by no means universal, the majority of the 9,000+ international students globally who participated in the survey were satisfied overall with their institution’s response to Covid-19: 71% were satisfied or very satisfied. Of the key countries included in the survey, German institutions appear to have been the most successful in their response to Covid-19: 84% of their international students were satisfied or very satisfied.


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International students at German institutions were also most likely to be satisfied with communication from their institution in response to COVID-19 (87% satisfied or very satisfied), followed closely by international students at New Zealand institutions (84%).


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German institutions stand out again in relation to satisfaction with information on teaching/learning elements. International students in New Zealand reported notably higher levels of satisfaction than those in other countries with information from their institution on wellbeing and financial support.


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The online learning experience

In line with earlier results, international students in Germany were also those most likely to be satisfied with the online learning experience overall at their institution: 80% of students satisfied or very satisfied. The satisfaction level amongst international students in New Zealand (75%) was also above the global average.


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While international students in Germany stood out in terms of satisfaction with lectures and tutorials, international students at institutions in New Zealand were notably more likely than others to be satisfied with online learning resources and library facilities and assignments and group work.


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Levels of concern about continuing or completing their studies varied considerably by country, lowest amongst international students in Germany and New Zealand (55%) and highest amongst those in the UK (75%).


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Concluding remarks

The Covid-19 environment is uncertain and constantly evolving. While this analysis provides useful insight into how satisfied international students were with their institution’s response to the pandemic, data reflects students’ reactions at a certain point in time.

With continuing developments surrounding Covid-19 and an accepted realisation that the virus will affect the way universities operate in the longer term, it will be interesting to see how students’ views evolve as institutions’ responses develop; from recent media coverage in some countries, it seems that in some cases the results will not be positive.

With a second wave of Covid-19 currently sweeping through many countries, it is unclear when the numerous travel restrictions that are in place will end.

Some countries, however, are gradually and cautiously beginning to let international students return, and as this progresses it is likely that countries that have been successful in dealing with Covid-19 will benefit in terms of international student recruitment.

This will hold true for individual institutions too, with those who have best understood and responded to the views and needs of their students most likely to see returns.

About the author: Kyla Steenhart has 17 years’ experience in the education sector, having worked in research, project management and policy areas. She is currently the director of i-graduate New Zealand.