Survey Report: Over 50% students changed study plans due to COVID-19

Survey Report: Over 50% students changed study plans due to COVID-19 Picture used for representational purpose only (Source: Shutterstock)
Team Careers360 | Jun 2, 2020 - 10:18 a.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: The global coronavirus pandemic has disrupted education in many, unprecedented ways. A direct impact has been the shutting down of schools and colleges to prevent large gatherings of people and allow for social distancing.

More indirectly, the economic hardship caused by the lockdown is affecting students’ higher education plans. Careers360’s own reportage has shown how the closing of businesses has left students in both schools and colleges struggling to pay their tuition and examination fees.

These twin disruptions have affected the academic plans and decisions of hundreds of students who were set to join higher studies this year.

For the second edition of our The Big Qs survey, we wanted to explore how the current situation has affected students at an individual level. There are many who migrate for better quality education, but the onset of coronavirus has changed mobility patterns among students. Apart from how they will now manage the costs involved in higher studies, the study intends to shed light on the change in choice (if any) of the university, college, or city under the prevailing conditions.

In short, how is the COVID-19 pandemic altering students’ higher education plans?

The findings of the survey indicate a significant change in the plans of many: half of the respondents have abandoned their plans of pursuing higher education abroad. Even within the country, nearly 47 percent of the students in India have altered their decision to migrate away from their homes after the outbreak of coronavirus.

A majority of these students need the support of their parents to fund their education, but nearly half of the students admitted that their parents might meet the expenses with difficulty in these circumstances. Of these, close to 40 percent of students wish to pursue engineering, followed by arts and humanities courses with 26 percent.

The extensive report of The Big Qs Survey is given below. The first section details the choice of courses and the gender of the respondents. The second explains the questions asked. The third gives the percentage distribution of responses to each question. The last section contains analysis correlating the choices and experiences of students to the other facts of their situation.

1. Survey and Respondents

The respondents were required to answer eight questions, excluding ones on the email address and gender. These covered preferences, of course, funding, availability of financial aid, and the choices of relocation within and outside the country for higher education.

The survey was conducted online and was open to school students who were planning to join higher educational institutes this year. Apart from email addresses, no other personal information was gathered through the survey.

We started reaching out to students from May 10. The survey was emailed to the relevant group from Careers360’s own database of students and shared through the magazine’s official social media accounts. The survey was closed on May 24 allowing 14 days to collect responses.

From across the country, a total of 568 students took part in the survey. Most of the students opted for engineering and technology as their preferred course which could be due to Careers360’s long-term engagement with professional courses through a range of products and programs. Another limitation of the survey is that more than half of the respondents were male.

2. Questions

The study intended to highlight two aspects with respect to pursuing higher education. First, the management of expenditure and second, changes in mobility patterns. The questions sought to discover the changes in choices of students due to the distress caused by the spread of coronavirus.

Under each question, multiple answer choices were given and depending on the question, respondents were asked to pick one or skip. None of the respondents skipped a question. Questions where “Other” was one of the choices, students were invited to explain in more detail but most did not.

The “Other” option was available for five questions and these are the numbers of respondents who selected it:

Q2: Which field would you like to pursue? | 70

Q3: Before the pandemic, how were you planning to fund your higher

Studies? |11

Q4: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your ability to fund your

higher studies? |17

Q5: What other educational choices have been impacted? You can select

more than one option | 19

Q7: Factors you will consider while selecting the city where you want to pursue higher studies. Skip if you are not planning to relocate at all | 24

Q9: If you were planning to pursue higher education abroad before COVID-19, are you still planning to go? | 26

3. Answers

For each question, the percentage distribution of answers is given below.

Evidently, most of the respondents are dependent on their parents to fund their education who are also facing financial distress.

With the economy crashing, salary cuts and sacking of employees, predictably, the parents will find it difficult to meet the education expenses of their children.

Of the students who are facing financial distress, close to 9 percent will have to take up loans and 12 percent will have to seek part-time employment to support their education.

Factors like quality or reputation of the institution and the availability of student accommodations influencing students’ decisions to migrate for higher education. However, as the responses show, the costs involved - including fees and the cost of living in the new location - are major factors as well. The coronavirus outbreak, the lockdown and the strain they have put on resources mean the cost factor will influence student choices even more.

Due to the outbreak, nearly 22 percent will not be able to afford education in a private college or institution. A small fraction of students (5%) also said that they will not be able to relocate at all and will be forced to study from home.

According to the data collected, for nearly half the students (47%) plans of relocation for higher education have changed after the outbreak of coronavirus.

Of the students who were planning to go abroad to study, over a quarter (25.53%) has now shelved those plans and another 19.54 percent is unsure. Plans remain unchanged for just a little over half the students.

4. Analysis by gender

The number of male respondents was more that of the female. However, of the surveyed students, 15.18 percent female respondents are dependent on parents to fund their education and will find it difficult to do so during the pandemic.

Whereas, the percentage of male respondents in a similar situation is 11.97 percent. Moreover, the pandemic has impacted the migration plans for about 16 percent female students, whereas 23 percent of the male students have altered their decision to migrate.

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