“The UK is really flying,” said Dan Baker, general manager EMEA, student.com. “It’s a testament to the success of the vaccination programme and also due to good communication. Universities have just opened up again in the UK, while in Europe there are opposite trends, with Spain and Germany doing well but France lagging behind.”
The UK is also benefitting from the fact that other English-speaking countries like Australia and New Zealand have effectively closed their borders. “The UK will have a bumper year, attracting many Chinese students who are risk-averse,” said Baker.
“The UK will outperform”, said Nigel Allsopp, senior director, investment strategy and research, Greystar. “If you looked at the bookings and didn’t know anything was wrong you wouldn’t know there was a pandemic.”
But the pandemic will have an impact on arrivals from worst-affected countries. India is a prime example of a very promising market that is unlikely to fulfil its promise in the short term.
“India will be a real challenge because of Covid,” said Baker. “We have thousands of Indian bookings but they may not be allowed to travel. That is the biggest risk for us.”
Communication is an important factor, as countries with a good image are more likely to attract students.
Bonard’s recovery tracker has identified the five key elements of student mobility: one is the image of the destination, including entry rules and friendliness. The others are the vaccination rollout, health and safety measures in place, access to visas for international students and student application volumes.
“Most EU countries will be at a 100% vaccination rate by 30 September, with France the laggard at 72%,” said Martin Varga, business development manager, Bonard. “Face to face tuition should resume in the next academic year, with some universities making vaccines mandatory.”
Lack of supply remains another big driver of demand. An example is the French capital: even if the vaccination programme is slower, the number of students looking for accommodation always exceeds what is available. “There are ten students looking for every one room in Paris,” said Samuel Vetrak, CEO, Bonard.