Session highlights

We have been fortunate in being able to contain the pandemic but at the expense of our borders being shut and we have administered hardship funds and subsidies to support international students and ramped up our communication with them so they feel connected into a community at a very difficult time.” Sahinde Pala, Director of Student Experience and Global Citizens, Education New Zealand. 

  • Monthly pulse surveys conducted by QS show that students feel New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Germany have handled the pandemic best with UK a little way behind. But over vaccines it comes out as top with US next. “Students may feel that countries have handled the pandemic well but if they close their borders that is seen as less welcoming and international students are responding more favourably to countries that are seen as more welcoming during the pandemic and that is reflected in the positive sentiment towards the UK which have seen a significant increase,” said Nunzio Quacquarelli, Founder and CEO, QS, UK.
  • QS surveys showed that 71 per cent of students would rather travel to their study destination and quarantine than stay at home to study remotely. Looking to the future, the majority – 88 per cent of undergraduates and 82 per cent of post-graduates - would still prefer in person experience. They saw the real benefits of campus study as meeting other students and having access to university facilities and there were concerns about teaching quality online.
  • International students in Tunisia come from many countries, including 40 countries in Africa and were badly affected by border closures with some unable to get fund transfers and many falling into severe hardship, said Malek Kochlef, Director General, International Cooperation, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Tunisia. The Ministry opened up university accommodation to them and offered psychological support. It arranged to deliver exams to 900 students in 20 countries setting up exam halls in universities abroad and even in Tunisian embassies, he said. 

Session summary

The student body is changing...

All higher education systems are welcoming global learners and future innovators from Generation Z.  Born into a world where the technology, internet and social media always existed, this generation sees a world affected by financial, political and environmental crisis and they are driven to make a positive change.  Covid-19 has brought this into sharp focus, and has created a unique student experience.

Our global learning institutions must deal with current and prospective challenges - not least Covid-19 and its short and long term impact.  At the same time they must continue to appeal to global learners and alumni of the future. To achieve this we must work together with the diverse and dynamic student body to identify solutions and strategies. We explore how three countries are developing their international student experience strategies to meet these challenges and identify opportunities. 

Speakers describe how strategies seek to ensure the international student voice is represented, how innovative student-facing campaigns are used to promote positive international student experience, how progress is measured and how they managed to pivot to meet Covid-19 related challenges.  They introduce a vision of global learning institutions as inclusive global learner communities in which international students are valued and empowered to be key partners in shaping both a quality learning experience and the world around them. Students drawn from the different countries provide their own perspectives. 

Following introductory inputs, session participants are invited to discuss these initiatives and to consider what challenges remain in breakout rooms hosted by UKCISA student ambassadors.  We will explore the term 'global learner' from the contrasting national perspectives. Global vs local will be debated and the notion that 'global' is necessarily good will be challenged from the different contexts. 

Takeaways from this session include:

  1. a greater knowledge of three countries' approach and process of international student engagement, of individual students' perspectives on these approaches and how approaches have pivoted to meet post-pandemic challenges
  2. increased understanding of the nature of the changing student body in different contexts and how each has adapted to the changing landscape
  3. identification of opportunities and challenges for institutions, organizations, or countries
  4. connections to collaborate and share on this topic beyond the conference.


  • Chair: Anne Marie Graham, Chief Executive, UK Counsil for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), UK
  • Malek Kochlef, Director General, International Cooperation, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Tunisia
  • Sahinde Pala, Director Student Experience & Global Citizens, Education New Zealand, New Zealand
  • Nunzio Quacquarelli, Founder and CEO, QS Quacquarelli Symonds, UK