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EMN-OECD inform: impact of COVID-19 on international students in EU and OECD member states

European Migration Network (EMN, DG HOME) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have recently published a joint report looking into the effects of COVID-19 on international students’ admissions, stays, academic, financial and legal status, tied to the measures introduced – or not – by the countries and higher education institutions (HEIs) providing tertiary education (ISCED 6-8). The findings are based on their collaborative mapping efforts: the information provided by national EMN contact points via an Ad-Hoc Query (for EU/EEA countries) and on OECD’s policy brief on managing international migration under COVID-19 as well as information collected via its Working Party on Migration between March and June 2020 (non-EU OECD countries). The study covers international students (third-country nationals in the EU context) both coming to or already in the country of studies.

The report provides an overview of the measures put in place by the countries, by HEIs or by countries for HEIs (provision of guidelines, briefs or even new legislation), such as those relating to

  • procedures for admission and stay of international students (contingency measures for admission, dealing with delays in visa and permits processing, health-related check-ups, stay and work after graduation, etc.),
  • the financial support for working students affected the hardest by the pandemic
  • the impact on interest in studying in the countries covered
  • approaches to online tuition in terms of administration, support to students and education providers, funding, etc.

The responses to the crisis varied, from for example, no changes in national policies (half of the responding EMN countries) to changes in legislation such as in the Czech Republic to support HEIs to adapt their admission procedures. Most countries did extend visas and residence permits and introduced measures to offset the financial impact of the crisis on international students. For example, in the case of working students, some countries increased the allowed maximum working hours (e.g. France, UK) or lifted this cap for certain essential sectors (e.g. health, care, food in Canada or Australia). Belgium, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland and Poland reported putting in place some kind of aid to help financially disadvantaged students. Among the OECD countries, such measures were reported by Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

At the time of the survey, not all the countries reported a decrease in applications despite the noticeable decreases in long-term visa applications. France, however, reported a 20% increase at the time, through a specific Campus France procedure targeting a specific set of countries.

When it comes to extension of residence permits, many responding countries adapted regulations to adapt to the emergency situation and protect international students from the undesired consequences of the crisis.

Given that the study was conducted between March and June 2020, the picture in the report is certainly not complete and further measures have been adapted or introduced since then. ESN and IAU have also joined forces to compare the views of students and HEIs on the impact of COVID-19 in a joint paper, which amongst other, points to the relevance of looking beyond numbers, and addressing the issue of mental health when discussing the impact of the pandemic on students.

The EMN-OECD Inform is available here.

The presentations from the EMN-OECD webinar on the topic (PDF) are available here:

  • EU action in the field of legal migration PDF
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international student migration PDF
  • EMN OECD inform: impact of COVID-19 on international students in EU and OECD Member States PDF
  • Good practice example: Germany PDF

The ESN-IAU paper is available here.