The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic among international students in the UK: New original research highlights key challenges for the UK and the HE sector

As Covid-19 spread in the UK and lockdown was introduced, we ran a survey among international students currently studying with a UK HEI who had started their course in the 2018/19 or 2019/20 academic year

Key themes covered by the survey included the:

  • International student experience of lockdown
  • Perceptions of how individual HEIs responded to the situation
  • Perceptions of how the UK responded to the situation
  • Impact on students’ perceptions of the UK and its HE offer internationally


This new report uses the original research as a springboard to explore the consequences for the UK sector of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the Covid-19 pandemic spreading around the globe in the first half of 2020, approximately 2.5m students enrolled in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) found themselves in a situation which neither they nor their host institution had ever faced before.

Half a million of these were international students; overwhelmingly young people in their 20s experiencing this unprecedented situation in a country that is not their own and often far from family, friends and support networks.

Understandably, many UK HEIs have a short-term concern about whether a new generation of international students will be willing/able to enrol in 2020/2021 if the pandemic continues.


But an equally valid question is whether those internationals students whose course extends into 2020/2021 will wish to continue their studies given their experience in the UK this year.

And taking a wider perspective, there is a far more important question about the impact of the pandemic and the UK’s response to it on the country’s long term attractiveness to young people around the world as a place to study.

The UK understandably prides itself on its welcome for international students and the UK HE sector often talks about the vital contribution its offer to international students makes to UK exports and UK soft power.

The response of the sector and of wider UK society to the pandemic which is explored in this new report has tested the quality of that welcome for international students like never before. The long term implications for the UK’s international HE offer and soft power projection may well be felt long after the Coronavirus itself has hopefully been brought under control


To download this free report, please click here.