New IIE COVID-19 Survey of Higher Education Institutions Shows 92% Shift to New Instruction Approaches for Fall Semester

NEW YORK, July 30, 2020—New survey data from the Institute of International Education (IIE) released today finds that a majority (92%) of higher education institutions will introduce a new instruction approach in the 2020 fall semester. Eighty-seven percent of those institutions plan to take a hybrid instruction model, combining in-person and virtual approaches. 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 university and college COVID-19 planning for the summer and fall 2020 semesters. The respondents also indicated expected impact on inbound and outbound options for student exchange, such as shifts in the academic calendar and potential deferment to a future semester, as well as the future outlook for U.S. study abroad programs.

The report, New Realities for Global Student Mobility in Summer and Fall 2020, is the third in IIE’s COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series. The report is based on survey data collected between July 9-24, 2020 from 520 U.S. higher education institutions. These institutions, which represent over 500,000 students, participated in the Open Doors® 2019 Report on International Educational Exchange.

“With the fall 2020 semester quickly approaching, U.S. higher education institutions are adapting their campuses and coursework for all students given the COVID-19 environment,” said Dr. Mirka Martel, head of Research, Evaluation and Learning at IIE. “Our analysis indicates that while flexibility to fast-changing circumstances will be critical, institutions are prepared to enroll students in the coming semester and provide the level of academic excellence that makes the U.S. a top destination for international students.”

Key Findings:

  1. Nine in ten (92%) higher education institutions will have a new instruction approach in the fall 2020 semester. Though many institutions were already evolving to include virtual and hybrid models, COVID-19 has accelerated their timelines and increased the adoption of virtual instruction.
    1. New approaches: 92% of institutions said their approach to teaching in fall 2020 will be unlike any other semester previously, providing an opportunity to expand their instruction methods in the future and introduce new instruction practices.
    2. Hybrid instruction: Of those, 87% of institutions said they plan to offer hybrid instruction in fall 2020, with approaches ranging from limited in-person instruction and restricted class size to allowing in-person instruction for certain classes.
  2. Among those that have announced changes to upcoming academic calendars, more than 4 in 5 higher education institutions (84%) anticipate ending the fall 2020 semester early in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19. The institutions are also implementing various prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 among students and faculty.
    1. Academic calendars: 52% of institutions plan to start the semester early and end it early, while 32% plan to start as usual and end early.
    2. Prevention measures: Institutions are implementing key prevention techniques including mandatory face coverings for everyone on campus (94%), restrictions to on-campus events (89%) and restrictions on social areas on campus (86%).
  3. More than 57,000 international students have accepted enrollment in the fall 2020 semester, according to nearly 300 institutions. A majority of institutions (87%) are providing international students the option to defer enrollment to spring 2021. While this is by no means indicative of all fall 2020 enrollment at U.S. higher education institutions, this figure tells us that there is a significant population of international students who would like to attend a U.S. institution in the fall.
    1. Continued enrollment: Over 40,000 international students remained enrolled on campus in summer 2020. 91% of institutions anticipate that the majority of international students who were enrolled and remained in the U.S. during the summer will continue their studies in the fall.
    2. Future enrollment: 286 institutions reported more than 57,000 international students accepted enrollment in the fall.
    3. Alternative options: Decision-making for new international students in fall 2020 will be closely tied to the options institutions offer to students who may not be able to make it to the U.S. by the beginning of the semester. Options range from deferment to spring 2021 (87%), online enrollment through distance education classes (78%) and deferment to summer 2021 or beyond (46%).
  4. Despite a significant decline in study abroad programs for fall 2020, 84% of institutions continue to plan study abroad programs for future semesters.
    1. 2020-2021 decline: Over 79% of colleges and universities expect a substantial decline in study abroad numbers for the 2020-2021 academic year.
    2. Continued promotion: Despite delayed study abroad programs due to intercontinental travel restrictions, 40% of institutions continue to promote U.S. study abroad for future semesters with the same frequency.
    3. Safety protocols: 51% of institutions said they have already updated future study abroad safety protocols as a result of COVID-19.

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

Survey Details

The IIE report, New Realities for Global Student Mobility in Summer and Fall 2020, is based on survey data collected from 520 U.S. higher education institutions from July 9-24, 2020. 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® 2019 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.


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