Start degree online or risk queues for admission, visas and flights, agents advise

study online
The majority of agents recommend students to study online until travel is possible. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

The majority of agents are recommending aspiring international students to study online until travel is possible rather than to put their study on hold, said a survey. The Navitas Agent Perception Research said the UK and Canada had the highest proportion of agents stating this was their primary recommendation, consistent with the optimism agents reported when asked if travel was going to be likely in the next six to 12 months. Strong interest in the UK is likely driven by how open and welcoming it has been.

The most recent round of agent research was conducted in March 2021, and is their most comprehensive sample of agent perception, capturing the views and opinions of nearly 900 agents in 73 countries around the world. 

The report notes that many students and their parents over the last twelve months are committed to continuing their studies and have a strong preference for face-to-face delivery. “The challenge for many agents is convincing parents and students that waiting for borders to open only places them in a longer queue for admission, visas and flights once travel is possible, and therefore commencing online as a transitional measure is in fact a better option,” said the report.

Have ‘backup’ countries or study online

study online

Agents recommend students apply to another destination “to hedge their bets”. Source: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Various reports suggest students who are unable to fulfil their study plans are looking to switch destinations. “Anecdotally, we have often heard that where students used to hedge their bets with multiple ‘backup’ institutions in the same study destination, they are now hedging across multiple countries,” said the report. Navitas agents themselves are recommending this.

About one in six agents (16%) are recommending that applicants to the UK have a backup option. This proportion rises to 18% for Canada, 18% for Australia, 25% for New Zealand and 31% for the US. “This represents a substantial proportion of students who are being advised by their agents to switch study destinations, or at least be prepared to switch with backup applications to other countries,” it said.

Don’t cancel travel, or commit to plans to study online fully – yet

study online

Should would-be international students study online or wait? Source: Frederic Brown/AFP

Only a small proportion of agents recommend that students either wait before deciding whether to cancel their plans to travel or study online fully, said the report. This is particularly true for agents advising students looking to study in Australia (12%) and New Zealand (18%). “On the one hand this reflects the uncertainty around the closed borders in those two countries, but it could also be interpreted positively, in that agents are not recommending students change their plans entirely,” said the analysis. This is also consistent with increasingly negative sentiments towards online delivery.

The survey also shows that there is a very low proportion of students who intend to cancel (between 2% and 10% from survey to survey). Agents are likewise not recommending cancellations. There is also a large proportion of students that remain uncommitted to a given country. “Historically, country selection was an important decision made early and resolutely. In the midst of the pandemic, this is clearly no longer the case,” it said.