IIE Survey: Universities Indicate Optimism, Confidence on International Educational Exchange

NEW YORK, June 10, 2021 –  The Institute of International Education (IIE) today released the findings of its fourth survey in IIE’s COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series, examining the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international educational exchange to and from the United States. The new survey data finds that U.S. institutions are focusing on bringing students back to campus, with 86% planning some type of in-person study in fall 2021.

“Universities are prepping for a strong recovery in international education enrollment 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 U.S. higher education institutions to reopen their campuses and encourage all students, including international students, to return to in-person study.”

The survey asked respondents to assess the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on U.S. higher education institutions and global student mobility to and from the United States.

The findings highlight the impact on international student exchange for spring 2021, planning for fall 2021 and beyond, and key learnings from COVID-19 that institutions are carrying forward post-pandemic to support international academic mobility.

Key findings of the survey, Preparing for the Future: The Path Forward for International Education Exchange, include:

  1. A Return to In-Person Learning: For all students on campus, the vast majority of institutions (86%) are planning some type of in-person study in fall 2021, and none of the reporting institutions intend to offer virtual instruction only. Mirroring this finding, 90% of institutions plan to offer in-person study to international students.
  2. International Student Applications are Up: 43% of institutions report an increase in their international student applications for the 2021/22 academic year, almost double the increases reported by institutions a year ago.
  3. Recruitment Remains a Priority: Priorities for outreach to international students continue, with most institutions focusing on online recruitment events (73%), working with current international students on other campuses (68%), and social media (65%).
  4. Vaccination Protocols are Still in Development: More than half of institutions (64%) plan to provide COVID-19 vaccines to students, faculty, and staff on campus, including international students. That being said, about less than half (45%) do not plan to require a vaccine before students arrive on campus. Only 14% of institutions have a requirement in place.
  5. Optimism in Study Abroad: Approximately 50% of institutions anticipate an increase in study abroad numbers in the 2021/22 academic year. This is a significant improvement over last year when 97% of institutions anticipated declines.
  6. In-Person Study Abroad Recovering: 49% of institutions, prioritizing safety, plan for in-person study abroad for fall 2021, which increases to 54% by spring 2022.

The full report can be downloaded here. To read more about the COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series, visit here.

Survey Details

The IIE report, Preparing for the Future: The Path Forward for International Education Exchange, is based on survey data collected from 414 higher education institutions from April 15 to May 5, 2021. Survey respondents include institutions in the IIENetwork, a global membership network of more than 7,000 professionals at 1,300 higher education institutions around the world, and respondents of the Open Doors 2020 Report on International Educational Exchange. For full methodology and details, see the full report.

About the Institute of International Education

IIE was established in 1919 with the founding premise that international exchange could make the world a safer and more interconnected place. IIE works to build more peaceful and equitable societies by advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity. IIE collaborates with a wide range of corporate, government and foundation partners across the globe to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs.


Public Affairs