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The Global Student: An Analysis

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Remote learning is part of the new normal in higher education. (PEXELS)

It has been over a year now since higher education institutions from all over the world have resorted to embracing the online learning experience due to the pandemic.

While a few have opted for blended learning—the combination of traditional and online learning—most have shifted to remote delivery through the internet. Not only is the online learning experience a safe option helping students and staff not to contract COVID-19 in active campuses but it is also a solution which allows international students who have returned to their home countries to continue studying.

Key Points at a Glance

  • According to the i-graduate survey, online learning was inevitable during the pandemic and international students were patient enough to embrace it.
  • Students are generally okay with online learning during the pandemic but data shows they might be inclined to going back to face-to-face learning, most especially among international students.
  • The top reason international students choose their institutions is how these would impact their future careers. Therefore, in spite of online delivery, institutions need to come up with initiatives that target this area.
  • The international student experience looks to evolve and grow beyond what is considered normal during the pandemic. Are higher education institutions ready for it?

It is assuring, however, that HEIs are listening to what international students are saying about the new normal in higher education.

In a recent i-graduate survey entitled “The Global Student Experience,” it presented data focusing on the international student experience.

The analysis presented “has been drawn from i-graduate’s International Student Barometer (ISB), established in 2005 and used by over 1,400 institutions across 36 countries comprising feedback from over four million students,” the report stated, adding that it drew information from the Covid-19 Response Barometer comprising “over 24,000 responses from students at 42 institutions around the world.”

Happiness Matters

Primarily, and expectedly so, COVID-19 affected the happiness of international students. In 2018, 91 percent of them reported to be “happy or very happy.” In 2020, the number dropped to 83 percent.

Happiness is integral to the international student experience, as one will probably struggle first to learn and be a part of a new culture in another host country with other students from different parts of the world. Clearly, the pandemic has greatly played a role in diminishing international students’ happiness.

One way higher education institutions could positively respond to this is by introducing initiatives that will help integrate new international students into campus community life.

Online Learning

Can international students learn online? Yes.

The online learning experience has prevented the quality of international and local education sectors from further deteriorating. If not for education technology (EdTech), an uncertainty in schooling periods and curriculum—leading to missed years and opportunities for students—would have been disastrous for international student learning. In fact, 79 percent of students who moved from traditional to online learning were satisfied with the move.

But how do students feel about online learning? The survey further revealed that generally, students felt more satisfied with face-to-face learning than online (86 percent).

Looking deeper into the data, the said survey highlighted areas where higher education institutions could improve in terms of education delivery. While students are understanding of the current situation forced upon everybody due to the pandemic, standards are still being defined and the future of education delivery remains uncertain as to whether or not face-to-face or online delivery will be competing against or working with each other in terms of international student learning.

Career Impact

According to i-graduate, future career impact is the number one factor (96 percent) when global students select an institution. The survey reported that 63 percent of international students from around the world “expect career support” from their institutions, while only 64 percent feel prepared for their career plans and goals.

choosing an institution chart

With this information, institutions can now plan on how to incorporate programs or pathways that guide a student from studies and into a career. That said, doing these in a fully-online program may be challenging but worth discussing.


The international student experience is a combination of various academic and lifestyle preferences and choices. It is more complex and extensive than the areas brought up in this article. However, this piece should serve its purpose as a starting point for institutions on how to understand their students better.

Data source:

The global student experience: 2021 insights and analysis from the world’s largest student survey. I-graduate. Retrieved from https://info.i-graduate.org/the-global-student-experience-2021


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