The effect of COVID-19 on educational travel is an extension of the impact on general human activities and has been nothing short of massive.
Since 2019 when the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Wuhan, and the ensuing lockdown that followed its outbreak in early 2020, the world as we knew it has never remained the same.
Governance, business, trade, social activities, and every other form of human endeavor, including education, endured a heavy blow in these last few years.
From the onset of the pandemic, leaders at every level of responsibility established rules and promptly developed vaccines to combat this epidemic. Yet, it has left profound impacts on the human population, the education sector, and most severely, educational travel.
Initially, many African students travel abroad annually for educational purposes (undergraduate or postgraduate). But unfortunately, these application processes and travel opportunities took a halt and a series of delays since the outbreak of COVID-19.
4 effects of COVID-19 on educational travel
Irrespective of the numerous unfavorable impacts that have trailed this COVID-19 pandemic, some have argued that a few good developments in various sectors could be traced to it.
Unfortunately, hardly any of these speculations are related to educational travel, as the international education system is among the sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic. According to Pew Research, “universities in the US alone experienced a 15% decrease in international students enrollment during the 2020/2021 school year”. Similar reports on other favored international education destinations like the UK, Canada, and Australia also revealed an exponential decrease in international students since the pandemic breakout.
Significant effects of COVID-19 in international education travel include
The financial demands associated with educational travel are often higher than the cost of studying locally in Africa.
Before the pandemic, this wasn’t much of a concern to many as it allows students to get the best available academic and life experiences.
However, the break out of COVID-19 led to a resonating economic breakdown worldwide, especially within Africa. This financial constraint has discouraged most prospective students from applying for admission and stopped most already admitted students from traveling for studies.
Although this was most prevalent in the first few months that followed the COVID-19 outbreak, the rate of student visa denial that has been directly associated with the pandemic is simply enormous.
According to a United kingdom Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) report, “there was a 21% decline in students visa issuances in 2020”. Individuals who were a visa approval away from their dream education journey were denied the opportunity because of COVID-19-related challenges.
The Department of Homeland security further revealed that the pandemic directly causes many immigration-related challenges in the US. While the Australian government still insists that “COVID-19 has made it difficult for many fresh students applying for visas to take the other health checks required for its approval”.
Since the development of covid vaccines, proof of vaccination has become significant for visa approval, with some universities in Canada and the USA further demanding evidence of vaccination from applicants.
While these are basic safety measures to check the spread of the virus, vaccine hesitancy has equally affected educational travel as some prospective students have reservations about the vaccine.
With the findings from a study by the news outlet – France 24, there is no doubt that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy has truncated many educational travel plans as “only 11.3% of the entire African population has been vaccinated while 31.2% of students over 23 years of age are hesitant about taking the vaccine”.
Beginning from March 2020, the rate of travel restrictions in some countries by others grew considerably to some of the highest points recorded. By December of 2021, many African countries were still on the travel ban red list of other developed countries (coveted education destinations).
At the time, the entire 11 countries red-listed by the UK were all African. These restrictions have been a significant consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic on educational travel, adversely affecting prospective, new, and returning students.
The impact of COVID-19 on every area of human activity, including education, has been nothing short of colossal. While its consequences on international education have constantly reduced with the decrease in infection rate, it has left many unable to pursue their academic goals in their school and country of choice. These impacts, whether self-induced through vaccine hesitancy or as a result of other factors like financial constraints, visa denial, or travel restrictions, African students have no doubt endured the many effects of COVID-19 on international travel.