EURIE organiser Ayşe Deniz Özkan said that the virtual conference was attended by almost 1,200 people from 57 countries and representing 312 institutions and organisations.

While many of the conference sessions touted the benefits of virtual mobility and digitalisation – although attendees themselves being rather keen to attend the conference in person in Istanbul next year – demand for studying abroad remains strong despite the pandemic.

“Students still want to go abroad. This is something that we were not sure of last year. The day that the WHO used the word ‘pandemic’ our traffic plummeted,” said Study.EU founder and CEO Gerrit Bruno Blöss.

“We have been seeing record traffic numbers almost every month”

We have been seeing record traffic numbers almost every month since then.”

“Our web page saw the same drop in traffic… March and April [were] about 30% less, but then during the summer it peaked,” said Mats Engblom, a marketing specialist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

However “only about 10% of those who accepted the offer postponed the start of their studies”.

“Without those 10% dropping out, we would have had about the same enrolment rate as the previous year,” he added.

Yet with many students unable to travel due to visa delays and border restrictions, the TNE trend is continuing as universities look to shore up their offshore provision.

Kutaisi International University chancellor Magda Magradze highlighted how international collaboration – particularly in STEM – has been helping Georgia’s educational offering better suit market demands.

She noted that while STEM manufacturing and related disciplines accounted for 22% of the country’s GDP, enrolment in these subjects was low, with only 8.3% of higher education students studying these fields.

“In 2012, the government of Georgia decided to invest major funds into bringing a US university campus to Georgia,” she explained.

“The main aim that we at that point had was to promote development of higher education quality by bringing a US university with its accredited STEM degree programs in Georgia.”

San Diego State University was ultimately selected from among 30 universities to take part in the project, working with three local leading public universities to offer their US accredited degree programs.

Almost ten years on, attention is now turning to how SDSU’s presence in the country can be sustained after funding runs out in 2023.

“We’re looking carefully at what we can do to make for self-sustaining operations indefinitely”

“We’re looking carefully at what we can do to make for self-sustaining operations indefinitely beyond that time,” said SDSU’s Eddie West, assistant dean, international strategy and programs, at San Diego State University Global Campus, adding that a study exploring different options would be completed later this year.

Meanwhile on another EURIE panel, Coventry University’s deputy vice-chancellor (international development) David Pilsbury questioned universities pivoting towards India as a potential replacement for the China market.

“People talk about diversification, they talk about diversification away from China,” he said.

“Diversification to where I would ask. When you actually look at the numbers, it’s a small group of countries that account for the markets… There is simply nowhere to diversify to that reduces our reliance on China in the way that some commentators would ask.

“We all know about the attractiveness of India but to state the obvious, India is not China.”

“We all know about the attractiveness of India but to state the obvious, India is not China”

Speaking ahead of the publication of a paper on China-UK research collaboration, THE chief knowledge officer Phil Baty disputed claims that China was involved in academic espionage, referring to “really strange rhetoric” around fearing China, despite documented incidents of espionage occurring.

“We need a strategy. We need to understand what we are going to do to manage the risks around these security concerns, but also manage the sort of quite extraordinary sort of nationalist rhetoric that’s whipping up about security and spying and secrets and 5G,” he said.

“How one responds to China at the policy level is going to be a huge determinant of your future position in the world as far as I’m concerned. So managing risk whilst also embracing opportunity is a delicate balancing act. But I think universities really can be trusted.”

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