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What do the international students think?

Universities all over the world  are discussing how courses should be organised in the next academic year. The possibility of providing courses online is being eagerly considered. One group that has not actually been asked to any great extent is the students themselves, especially not the international students. What do they think?

A total of 941 students from countries outside the EU and EEA who had all planned to study in The Netherlands in the 2020/21 academic year, were invited to answer a questionnaire in The Netherlands in April and May. The Netherlands have international offices (Netherlands Education Support Offices) in ten countries; Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam, which shows how important international students are for The Netherlands.

The results showed that 66 percent of the students still wished to study as planned in September 2020. The students expressed significant uncertainty with regard to questions concerning visas, travel restrictions, financing and even forms of teaching.

Indian students had doubts about travel restrictions, the Chinese, South Korean and Vietnamese students were more worried about the form of teaching given the ongoing pandemic.

On the question of what form the students preferred, 40 percent said they would like to start with campus education in the autumn. Just over 20 percent wanted to postpone starting for a year until 2021, while 10 percent wanted to start with online courses or alternatively postpone starting. A small number of students wanted to start at a university in their home country or a neighbouring country, while just over 10 percent were not sure what they wanted to do. A quarter of the students say that they could very well consider studying in another country and in which case, in the EU above all and ideally in Germany, Belgium or Sweden.

Can we draw any conclusions from this survey when it comes to Swedish conditions in general and KTH in particular? I for one, certainly think so. We have the same large international groups at KTH and we could reasonably expect to get similar responses if we performed an equivalent exercise.

Clearly, international students are very hopeful of being able to start studying in countries such as The Netherlands and Sweden. Their worries mainly relate to visa issues and travel restrictions and as such, it is incredibly important that Sweden is able to provide clear and coherent decisions to all international students with the aim of creating the greatest possible trust in Sweden as an attractive country to study in.

We must hope, that public authorities and government departments together with universities find solutions as soon as possible to give these student that trust and confidence they need.