The fourth report in IIE’s Covid-19 Snapshot Survey Series examined the impact of the pandemic on US international student enrolment and US study abroad one year since it began. 

“There is definitely a concerted effort by US higher education institutions to reopen their campuses”

Key findings were that 43% of institutions reported an increase in their international student applications for the 2021/22 academic year, almost double the increase reported by institutions a year ago.

“Universities are prepping for a strong recovery in international education enrolment as they emerge from the pandemic,” said Mirka Martel, IIE’s head of research, evaluation and learning. 

“We anticipate the recovery to come in phases, tied to vaccinations and travel guidelines. But there is definitely a concerted effort by US higher education institutions to reopen their campuses and encourage all students, including international students, to return to in-person study.”

IIE sent the fourth survey to US higher education institutions from April 15 to May 5, 2021, with some 414 institutions completing the survey.

The institutions represented 44% of all international students at US institutions in 2019/20 and US study abroad students in 2018/19.

In the survey, universities were asked what they expected to have in terms of the mode of instruction for both home and international students. 

Source: IIE

“What we found here is that there is a strong intent to return to in-person instruction… 86% of institutions are planning some form of in-person instruction in fall 2021,” said Martel in a webinar on the findings.  

“Over half are still expecting to have a hybrid model – so some combination of in-person and virtual.” 

Some 24% of respondents are expecting to offer in-person instruction only. 

“In a comparison to where we were this time a year ago, the noted change here is that there were no institutions who anticipate to offer only virtual instruction this fall,” Martel added.  

The survey found institutions that plan to resume in-person study were more likely to require vaccinations, though they were equally likely to have not made a final decision. Only 14% of institutions noted a current vaccine requirement. 

Source: IIE

The report said that these findings were in line with the American Council on Education’s recent snapshot survey of college and university presidents that found approximately 12% of institutions will require the vaccine and 44% will not require the vaccine for students.

While vaccines may not be a requirement, more than half (64%) of the reporting colleges and universities plan to offer Covid-19 vaccines for students, faculty, and staff on campus.

Other findings of the survey were that 43% of institutions reported an increase in their international student applications for the 2021/22 academic year. 

The report said that the figure is in “stark contrast” to this time last year, when only 22% indicated growth.

Source: IIE

As of May 2020, over half (52%) of the reporting colleges and universities noted decreases in application numbers, whereas only 38% indicated a decline as of 2021. 

“The remaining institutions noted similar numbers compared to last year,” the survey said.

“There were some differences by institutional type. For example, more than half of reporting doctoral universities (59%) noted an expected increase in applications. Conversely, most associate’s colleges (58%) reported declining applications.” 

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