COVID19 Impact: Declining Enrollment of Pakistani Students in US, China
Pakistan, the world's sixth most populous nation, ranked 18th in the number of students studying in the United States. Pakistani students enrolled in the US fell by 5.8% to 7,475 in 2020-21, significantly less than the 15% drop in international student enrollment. However, number of Pakistanis studying in the US in 2020-21 was even less than students from much smaller nations like Nepal which ranked 12th. Overall, COVID19 travel restrictions brought down the total number of foreign students enrolled in American educational institutions dropped to less than one million in 2020-21, the lowest figure since 2015-16.
|Pakistani Students in the US. Source: OpenDoors|
China maintained its top position among the leading places of origin for international students, with 35% of all international students in the 2020-21 school year hailing from the country, according to the data released by the United States government. The second most common place of origin was India (18%), followed by South Korea (4%) and Canada (3%). Some of these countries also experienced the largest year-over-year declines in the number of students who enrolled at US institutions. The largest such percentage decreases occurred in South Korea (-21%), China (-15%) and India (-13%).
|Foreign Students Studying in US. Source: OpenDoors|
The number of students in China, the top destination for Pakistani students, was also heavily impacted by COVID travel bans. Some 28,000 Pakistani students are affected by China’s tough border closures and are studying from home. Studying in China has only been possible for South Korean students who were granted an exemption in July 2020, according to reports.
|Pakistani Students in the US. Source: OpenDoors|
During his recent visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Imran Khan brought up the issues faced by Pakistani students in resuming education in China. A joint statement issued by Chinese and Pakistani sides mentioned it thus: "Pakistan side highlighted that China has become a popular education destination. While ensuring safety against COVID-19, China will arrange for Pakistani students to return to China and resume classes in a prudent manner".
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University of Utah officials recently traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan to hold the first Stakeholders Meeting of the new Higher Education Systems Strengthening Activity (HESSA)—a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)—funded initiative aimed at enriching the country’s higher education system. A 5-year, $19 million grant was awarded to the U and partners by USAID to provide technical assistance for the project. Representatives from the U’s Office for Global Engagement, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and College of Education are leading the initiative. Other U.S. project partners include the University of Alabama and the Institute of International Education.
These U.S. institutions will work closely with Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC). Together, they will provide training aimed at bolstering the administrative systems, curriculum and student life supports that will ultimately help students meet the needs of the contemporary workplace.
HESSA-trained member institutions will then promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education and strengthen the contributions of research universities to the country’s economy. “This important strategic initiative will increase access to and improve the quality of our higher education institutions in Pakistan,” said HESSA Chief of Party Aslam Chaudhry.
“The University of Utah is a global university with engagement in over 200 countries. This USAID grant builds on our existing relationships in Pakistan and will allow us to grow opportunities for Pakistani students and our educators,” said Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah. “We look forward to working with our U.S. partners and Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission to strengthen Pakistan’s educational infrastructure and achieve its goal to provide students an excellent academic experience.”
The U has remained involved in Pakistan’s higher education development since the 2014 launch of the U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies in Water—also a USAID-funded initiative, aimed at helping to train the next generation of the country’s water engineers. The reputation garnered during that project led to additional educational initiatives and capacity-building partnerships throughout the country.
“Expanding upon our long-standing higher education partnerships in Pakistan is an exciting endeavor that will foster the definition of academic rigor in the region,” said Michael Barber, chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal investigator, HESSA Project. “Our team enjoys exchanging knowledge and ideas to help international higher education institutions meet their evolving needs. In doing so, we learn so much about global challenges and opportunities that we can then bring back to Utah to share with our colleagues and students.”
The University of Utah is fast becoming known for international thought-leadership and the HESSA project is a continuation of that work. “Projects of this caliber make me very excited to be stepping into the role of Chief Global Officer at this time,” said Brian Gibson, who recently joined the U’s Office for Global Engagement. “We look forward to helping USAID deliver on its international development mission on behalf of the American people.”
Haroon Janjua Islamabad
Pakistani students, who have been admitted to German universities, are worried that they might lose their admissions due to long waiting times for student visa appointments at German missions in the country.
When Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto visited Germany earlier this month, he said the visa issue is a big concern and that Islamabad hopes to "continue to be able to engage and make that process more easier."
His German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, at the joint press conference on October 7, said that the issue is high on her ministry's agenda and promised to address the problem.
For Farooq Rasheed, getting admitted to the University of Bonn's Geodetic Engineering program this year was one of the best things that happened in his life. He was supposed to begin his studies in the western German city last week but he's still stuck in Pakistan waiting for a visa.
The 23-year-old student from Lahore city said that he had applied for a visa in July but has yet to receive it.
"My classes started last week but the university has given me exemption, and I am attending online classes for the next two-three months," Rasheed told DW, adding that he has no idea when he will receive the student visa.
It's not an isolated case. Many other students have complained of long waiting times for visa appointments at German missions in the South Asian country.
Fatima Saleem, 23, is enrolled for a masters program in entrepreneurship management and marketing at the Otto Von Guericke University in Magdeburg. She said she has been waiting for a visa appointment since May.
"I didn't know I would have to miss my first semester due to the delay in appointments from the German Embassy, as the website stated that the waiting time is 2-3 months," she told DW.
"My classes started on October 10. I hope to get my visa soon. My university has allowed me to join later, before exams. But since there are no online classes, I am facing many issues and have to study all by myself," she noted.
Students fear losing admission
Students say they risk losing their admissions if the German missions in the country fail to make an appointment for them on time.
"I am afraid, if I won't make it before exams I might lose my whole academic year, which would have a devastating effect on my future. I request the German Embassy to kindly expedite the process now and make us a priority so that we can reach there at least before exams," said Saleem.
Students who apply for a visa appointment at the German Embassy in Islamabad are receiving an auto generated message, pointing to the long waiting times.
"Given the high demand for appointments, please note that you have to wait approximately up to more than twelve (12) months for the allocation of your appointment," it reads.
The embassy hasn't so far responded to DW's repeated requests for comment as to why students are facing such long delays in getting visa appointments.
What could be the reasons behind the long waiting times?
Rasheed believes the long waiting times are due to the fact that anyone with a passport can apply for a visa appointment and they don't actually need an offer letter from a German university to do so.
This means that people book appointments long before they have even applied for university, resulting in their taking up appointment slots that would otherwise go to deserving visa applicants who actually have offer letters.
"This creates a backlog and many serious candidates get left behind," he said, adding: "The embassy should ask the candidates to provide at least an admission letter at the time of applying for appointments so that only serious candidates who have all the documentation can be considered for visa interviews."
The number of international students at U.S. colleges increased last year after a marked drop during the pandemic, according to a survey of thousands of universities released Monday.
For a normal college experience during the pandemic, these students hopped continents
The number of international students increased 4 percent in the 2021-2022 academic year to nearly 1 million students, coming from more than 200 countries, the survey found, a rebound that many higher education officials hoped to see.
But the data also indicated a drop in the number of students from China, the country that for years has sent the most students to the United States.
The Open Doors 2022 Report on International Educational Exchange was released Monday by the Institute of International Education and the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The survey included both enrolled students and those here on optional practical training — temporary work related to their academic field — at some 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States.
A separate, much smaller survey of more than 600 schools this fall offered a more recent snapshot of data, finding an additional 9 percent increase in enrollment by international students.
The numbers are closely watched for the cultural and economic impact of such exchanges; international students alter the educational experience for U.S. students studying with them. And, according to the Commerce Department, they contributed $32 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021.
In more than a century of data, Allan E. Goodman, chief executive of the Institute of International Education (IIE), said, they have seen that international exchanges occur even during pandemics and grow rapidly afterward.
The increase was welcomed by Lee Satterfield, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. “We are thrilled to see international student numbers on the rise, and to see the United States maintain its global leadership as the top destination of choice for international students,” Satterfield said in a statement.
Satterfield said that welcoming international students to American campuses “is at the heart of people-to-people diplomacy and a foundational component of our U.S. foreign policy strategy to attract the top talent to the United States.”
More than half of all international students last year came from China or India. China sent the most — nearly a third of the total — but the numbers decreased nearly 9 percent from the 2020-2021 academic year.
At the same time, the number of students from India increased nearly 19 percent, to almost 200,000.
Before 2020, the number of students from China had been increasing since the 2009-2010 academic year, said Mirka Martel, head of research, evaluation and learning for IIE. She said the pandemic and its impact on travel is probably one of the primary reasons Chinese students were unable to travel to the United States or were choosing to defer their studies.
Speaking to whether geopolitics influenced those numbers as well, Ethan Rosenzweig, deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department, said on a press call that the Biden administration has been very clear that Chinese students are welcome here. Rosenzweig said he is looking forward to China opening its borders to allow U.S. universities to recruit in person there again.
Pakistani students receive access to millions of pounds worth of scholarships and bursaries in the UK
Due to its rich educational history and culture that fosters a global perspective, the UK has become one of the most sought-after destinations for Pakistani students looking to acquire higher education. As of June 2022, the number of student visas issued for Pakistani students has surged to 28,188, marking a significant 95pc increase from the previous year.
A major contributing factor to this trend is the UK’s Graduate Route (GR) programme, which was launched in 2021. This programme allows Pakistani students to kick-start their careers immediately after completing their course, with a two-year upper limit to find employment. Doctoral graduates (PhD) are given an additional year, providing them with a competitive edge in the job market.
Moreover, the UK’s master’s degree programme is another key factor attracting Pakistani students. The programme offers extensive transformational instruction in just 12 months, comprising a combination of classes, projects, studies, and papers. Compared to other countries where the postgraduate programme lasts two years, students in the UK can start working almost a year earlier, giving them a competitive advantage while also being more cost-effective.
As a global hub for education, the UK boasts four universities in the top 10 list of the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2023. Graduates from the UK have access to the best-in-class industry professionals, research facilities, and infrastructure to acquire practical skills, making them highly employable. According to QS Graduate Employability Rankings, UK graduates are the most employable globally. Additionally, according to a Universities UK International (UUKI) report, 83pc of international graduates stated that their UK degree helped them secure a job.
For Pakistani students who cannot afford tuition fees, numerous scholarships and bursaries worth millions of pounds are available, including the Commonwealth Scholarships, Chevening Scholarships, and others. The British Council also provides exceptional scholarships to young, brilliant Pakistanis, such as the British Council Women in STEM Scholarships and GREAT Scholarships, opening up even more opportunities for them.
A UK education prepares young students to become the leaders of tomorrow, researchers who address global challenges, entrepreneurs, and policy leaders of the future. For Pakistani students considering postgraduate education abroad, the UK offers innumerable benefits for their future professional careers.
United Arab Emirates 24,863
United Kingdom 7,802
United States 7,511
Saudi Arabia 1,635
Korea, Rep. 1,465
Iran, Islamic Rep. 377
New Zealand 274
China, Hong Kong 272
South Africa 138
Russian Federation 115
Brunei Darussalam 19
Viet Nam 5
The envoy shared the willingness to boost the ties further in areas of trade and investment. He apprised the minister that 100,000 strong Pakistan diaspora and 15,000 Pakistani students in Australia are playing an important role in bringing the two countries closer.
The UK approved a record-breaking number of UK student visas on record in its time series. Out of 486,868 sponsored study visas granted (to both main applicants and their dependants), 117,965 went to Indian nationals. This is an increase of 80,569 (+215%) compared to 2019, and slightly more than the 115,056 granted to Chinese nationals — but Pakistani nationals saw a bigger increase in approvals for their UK student visas at 377% compared to India’s 215%.
Following India, Chinese nationals received 115,056 approved UK student visas, 4% lower than the number seen in 2019 (119,825). Almost half of all UK student visas (48%) went to Chinese and Indian nationals.
Nigerian nationals make up the third largest nationality group in the latest year, with a record high of 65,929 approved UK student visas. This is a 686% jump from 2019, marking the largest relative increase in Sponsored Study grants among all nationality groups.
Indian students now see the UK as more appealing after it reintroduced opportunities to remain in the country to work after graduation.
Data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is showing an uptick in the number of Indian international students enrolled in British universities in 2020-21.
First-year Indian international students have increased by 27%, from 41,815 in 2019-20 to 53,015 in 2020-21, representing 19% of all non-EU enrolments. While China still leads in terms of student enrolments, their numbers have decreased over the 2020-21 period.
Speaking to Times of India, Indian National Student Association UK president Amit Tiwari said: “Indian students also appreciate the fact that they get a chance to apply experience to their studies due to the post-study work visa. We can only see the trend increasing of Indian students coming to the UK.”
Sanam Arora, founder and chairperson of National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK, said India is the most natural partner for the UK when it comes to education. She added that it is in India’s interest if the UK increased their intake with a compelling offer.
“Post-study work rights are critical to that offer, and the results of that are already being seen in the doubling of numbers from India and I do think this increase will continue. I am excited to see what comes out of the FTA negotiations,” Arora was quoted saying.