Indian students constitute a significant percentage of international students in popular study destinations abroad such as Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada. India ranks 2nd in terms of sending university students to Australia, the UK, and the US, and 1st in Canada.
However, the problem is that the students who enrolled in 2020 are yet to experience life in an international university. Since the lockdown, many countries have still not eased restrictions on international students. Although there was hope since January with the vaccination rollout programs in various countries, many countries are still facing second, third and fourth waves of the pandemic. As the COVID-19 virus constantly mutates to become more contagious, the end to the pandemic is nowhere in sight.
Nevertheless, Indian students remain interested in studying abroad. A recent study by Leverage Edu has shown that 94% of Indian students prefer completing their higher education abroad, mainly because of better opportunities and healthcare infrastructure. This study was published, following the devastating COVID-19 second wave that exposed India’s inadequate healthcare system and its limitations.
Countries like the US and Australia, which are planning to open doors to international students have limited the entry to allow only the vaccinated students. With vaccination shortages and scams, inoculating every Indian will take months to conclude. Also, the country’s approved vaccines (Covaxin, Covishield, Moderna, Sputnik V) are also not globally accepted either, reducing the possibilities of migration of international students.
Australia was one of the success stories in battling the pandemic. They were one of the few regions in the world where masks were optional. However, the country is recording the highest number of cases per day of this year since the past few weeks despite several restrictions in place. The country has even detected the Delta variant of the virus, a COVID-19 mutation 50-60% more transmissible than the Alpha strain, which is 50-60% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain. Experts have called this strain ‘COVID-19 on steroids’. Some experts have suggested BioNTech Pfizer vaccines are effective against serious hospitalization of Delta strain. As Pfizer is not distributed in India, the entry process of Indian international students’ to Australia looks like getting prolonged.
The delta variant, initially found in India, has been detected in various other countries such as Singapore, Portugal, Indonesia and France. As countries prepare for increased restrictions on travel to combat this new destructive mutant, international students’ expectations for starting their next academic year on-campus are depleting.
The current plight of university students is taking a toll on their education and mental health. A survey conducted in 21 countries, including India, discovered 56% of undergraduate students are suffering from mental health issues due to COVID-19. Another survey conducted by researchers at the University of Hong Kong has indicated that the pandemic and lockdown have increased a sense of isolation in people, particularly among students who badly wanted to interact with new people and professors at universities and acquire proper education.