Western Union’s Future of International Education Report

Money By Andrew Summerill June 3, 2020

Universities and Colleges today are facing the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic. In response, we’re seeing academic institutions around the world, from Montreal to Melbourne, introduce new, creative and innovative procedures to adapt to this period of uncertainty so that they continue to meet the needs of their students.

Our new Future of International Education Report was developed before the Coronavirus pandemic hit the global higher education market, and this has shone a new light on the trends we’ve uncovered to predict the future of the sector. As with any competitive and global market, there are a number of levers in play at any one time which have an impact on the higher education landscape – from technological, social and environmental trends, to political and economic shifts – and these influence how universities behave and evolve.

How universities and colleges respond to these levers varies based on how easy these are to control. While environmental trends typically take place over a longer period of time, giving institutions greater freedom to adapt to changing expectations, a global pandemic like COVID-19 that is fast to disrupt the landscape means universities can find themselves forced to evolve.

Our report uncovers two new types of international students, Digital Leaners and Greener Graduates, for example, who are driving universities to move to more online learning platforms to meet their expectations. While one is driven by a love of technology, and the other by concerns of sustainability and the carbon footprint of their travel, we predict in this report, that universities and colleges will offer more remote access courses to meet their needs, resulting in a rise in transnational learning. The latter now accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with universities worldwide forced to shut lecture halls in favor of remote education.

The key takeaway, however, is that as institutions and international students are being propelled into this unprecedented situation, the sector needs to be more flexible and nimble. This is particularly important as universities are welcoming more international students to their campuses, and therefore becoming even more exposed to global macroeconomic challenges and trends. It will be those that strike a balance between digital transformation, sustainability and emotional well being, that will be best prepared to weather challenges like the COVID-19 storm, while ensuring they continue to meet the expectations of the new generation of international students.

Download the full report here.