2022: A year in review – Ukraine, visa delays, housing shortages and unprecedented demand

Published 30/12/2022

Despite a tumultuous year that included the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, record levels of global inflation and increased pressure on the climate – the international education sector has been extremely buoyant with millions of students choosing to study abroad in 2022.

The year began full of confidence with pent-up demand from prospective students seeking to put two years of pandemic lockdowns behind them.

Travel bookings surged and many universities reported massive increases in volume of enquiries and applications.

“Australia started the year by finally opened up its borders to fully vaccinated students”

Australia started the year by finally opened up its borders to fully vaccinated students – it wouldn’t be until July that New Zealand would follow suit and finally get back on track.

The UK, Canada, France and Germany all reported record intakes of international students, alongside the US and Australia both showing indicators of recovery towards pre-pandemic demand.

Reports of visa delays and accommodation shortages in these same countries, in addition to application overload, were strong indicators that demand has been exceeding supply.

The most read articles of 2022

  1. UK: more students switching to skilled worker visa on arrival
  2. Arrests in India after fraud claims by US Embassy
  3. UK to ‘review’ immigration as dependant numbers dramatically rise
  4. Australian government moves to fix student visa delays
  5. Malaysia to re-open border to international travellers
  6. UK Home Office ‘pulling in opposite direction’ on int’l education agenda
  7. Highly selective UK visa for world’s top grads launching in May
  8. Agents in Nigeria may be helping students break immigration rules
  9. Canada lifts working hour restrictions for international students
  10. Australia extends post-study work rights for in-demand graduates

War in Europe

On February 24, Russia shocked the world by launching a full scale invasion on Ukraine bringing war to the European continent.

The higher education sector mobilised support including twinning initiatives, fundraising and online English language teaching in support of Ukraine, however there has been criticism in some quarters that universities, researchers and rankings have not gone far enough to cut ties with Russian institutions and put pressure on the government while the conflict continues.

The PIE Live Europe conference was forced to dramatically switch venues just five days before the event because of sanctions against Roman Abramovich, the then Russian owner of Chelsea Football Club, making the original venue of Stamford Bridge untenable.

Speaking at an emotional dinner at the event, which also marked the 10-year anniversary of The PIE, Sharif Safi, a Chevening scholar from Afghanistan, spoke powerfully to urge guests to “be kind” to both Ukrainian and Russian students, calling on the sector to “separate politics from education”.

Public-private partnerships boom

Acquisitions and outsourcing featured heavily in 2022 as the digital economy drove innovation and external influence across the sector.

An edtech bubble formed amid investor-led hype to embrace private partnerships for recruitment, admissions, delivery and disruption.

The PIE produced a Digital Student Recruitment Digest in March to try and make sense of the exponential multiplication of various companies and solutions in this space.

Weekly news of investor funding and company sales such as IDP Education’s acquisition of Intake Education and Wellspring International’s acquisition of StudyMe coincided with the continued great resignation of university staff being drawn to the private sector.

As the English language sector continues to recover, it faces labour shortages of its own, particularly in Canada and Australia.

Other notable acquisitions of the year include college admissions platform Concourse and student recruitment event operator BMI Global.

Our coverage reflected the hot topics across the sector and we reported on the headlines across the world including the returning heavyweight conferences including NAFSA Denver, EAIE Barcelona, ICEF Berlin, BUILA, AIEC Gold Coast, Going Global Singapore and AIRC Los Angeles.

The inaugural PIE Live: North America was hailed as a great success, with further international dates added including the Gold Coast in July 2022 and will now take place in Boston in November 2023.

Immigration policy and ethical recruitment were hot topics of debate with a national TV documentary in Canada calling into question the experience for students from India being recruited by aggregators for private colleges.

Geo-politics clashes with the international education agenda

In a year that saw the world’s population surpassed 8 billion people, pressures on climate action and immigration also came to the fore.

Climate compensation was backed by some European universities as part of COP27 commitments, but academic institutions have grown increasingly reliant on international students for funding.

Many study destinations strengthened their policy on post-study work visas, permanent residency options and highly skilled immigration routes to attract graduate talent.

However wider politics has not always been helpful in supporting this agenda.

On June 24, the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights for women sparking mass protests on campus. Along with gun control, safety continues to be a concern that hampers the appeal of the US to overseas students.

“China still remains only partially open to students and foreign visas”

China still remains only partially open to students and foreign visas. The ongoing tech war with the US and UK isolating the country further and by July of this year, China was being framed as the biggest threat to national security to western countries and the role of Confucius Institutes being called into question.

The UK government continued to do the hokey cokey appointing no fewer than three prime ministers in the year and countless ministerial shake-ups. Concerns continue to grow that the Home Office is pulling in the opposite direction to international education strategy over net immigration.

Our recent articles about the number of dependants traveling to the UK with students, and a growing trend for students switching to the Skilled Worker visa route have been widely shared and debated.

Finally the international education sector in the UK mourned the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, emphasising the importance Her Majesty placed on youth, education, cultural exchange, leadership and civic engagement.

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