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As pandemic recedes, international students are poised to surge back

'Ketchup effect' may be on the way, as pent up demand for study abroad is suddenly let loose. Exchange student applications are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, according to University of Copenhagen data.

Students from abroad are putting the corona crisis behind them and are, yet again, applying for University of Copenhagen study programmes in large numbers. This is according to Anne Bruun who heads the international education section at the University of Copenhagen.

»By the application deadline 1 May we had received 861 now applications, which is really good. Before the pandemic, we usually got just over a thousand,« she says.

The numbers are for international student applicants on an exchange programme at the University of Copenhagen, starting September 2021 and who may stay for either one semester, or two.

READ ALSO: Holed up in Copenhagen for the Covid-19 shutdown, international students face new challenges

On the same date in 2020 — at the height of the pandemic scare — there were only 379 applications pending.

The application numbers are only a leading indicator, and not the final admitted numbers in September. As always, according to Anne Bruun, »there will be cancellations, and maybe even extra cancellations depending on the corona situation,« she says.

According to Anne Bruun, students who wished to study abroad during the pandemic have had to surmount a series of stumbling blocks. There have been travel restrictions from the students’ home countries, restrictions from the students’ own universities that have temporarily stopped exchange programmes, and travel restrictions in Denmark that prevented students from entering the country.

Students still had the desire to go abroad, but the practical restrictions just made it that much harder

Anne Bruun, Head of international education section, UCPH

But as the, albeit lower, 379 number from 2020 shows, students wanted to go international, even during the height of the pandemic. »We find that students still had the desire to go abroad, but the practical restrictions just made it that much harder,« says Anne Bruun.

For some international students, the 2020 pandemic may have come at the worst possible time, effectively slamming their home university’s  ‘mobility window’ shut. But for others, a postponement of their stay abroad until after the pandemic was, and is, still possible. The University of Copenhagen places no formal hindrances on incoming students, so long as their stay is academically justified, according to Anne Bruun.

Ketchup effect

The corona pandemic changed the typical profile of incoming international students, with a higher proportion of European students now applying. Non-European student numbers dropped more drastically than European students during the pandemic as a result of the tougher travel restrictions.

Students’ wish to study abroad works both ways, with Danish-enrolled students applying to study abroad also in high numbers.

The increase in applications from incoming international students is in parallel to a surge in outbound students from Danish universities that wish at foreign universities. The University Post reported last month that large numbers of Danish students were on the brink, waiting for confirmation of their study abroad in the autumn of 2021.

READ ALSO: Students are raring to go: More than ever want to study abroad

The numbers of applications for outbound study shift on a daily basis according to the Education and Students unit of the University of Copenhagen: But 1,400 University of Copenhagen students have — as of mid-May 2021 — been put forward for study abroad in the academic year 2021 to 2022. This is almost at pre-pandemic levels, and a large increase over the same point in time last year at the start of the pandemic.

Staff at the Education and Students unit in the University of Copenhagen speak of a possible ‘ketchup effect’ starting 2022: Pent up demand from Danish and international students hoping to study abroad will suddenly be let loose.