The unprecedented lockdown and the continuous fight against the pandemic are now seeing an end, well, technically.
As the global economies open international borders and ease travel restrictions, many higher education analysts are 'cautiously optimistic' about the return of the students.
Terry Hartle, senior vice-president for government relations at the lobby group American Council on Education, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that overseas students would continue to grow over the coming year.
As Covid-19 travel restrictions are heading towards a more liberal state, Hartle believes many education experts will closely watch the situation.
"Based on conversations with campus officials, we think interest from Chinese students remains high, especially at the nation's most selective schools in desirable geographic locations – despite many challenges," Dr Hartle said.
Dr Hartle also added that the greater emphasis by the Biden administration on prioritizing student visas is also a significant step towards attracting large flocks of students in 2021-22. And the latest numbers showcase a similar situation as well.
At New York University, for instance, China's share of enrollments keeps climbing. Despite the pandemic, the number of Chinese students enrolled at NYU rose from 8,026 in 2019 to 8,440 in 2020 – and again to 9,749 in 2021.
While cities such as New York, San Francisco and Miami are also seeing broad interest, several analysts also believe that the rise in the number of students is a global effect.
One spokesperson experienced on the topic commented that while "the primary reason we were able to maintain this level of participation of international students was continued by many factors.
" NYU's "Go Local" programme, which has branches in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai and was created to accommodate students facing travel and visa issues caused by Covid-19, had altogether played a vital role in attracting students to the US," she said.
Furthermore, a similar pattern was also recognized in other parts of the world. According to the Home Office, over 7,200 international student visa applications in the first quarter of 2021 were received in the UK. But that had increased to more than 8,400 applications by mid-year.
While the majority of the international education providers are seeing significant growth in students, many popular destinations are visiting challenging scenarios to attract students. One such example is Australia.
In the last few months, Australian institutions have found themselves on the losing side of the competition to attract students. Grace Zhu, China branch manager at the higher education consultancy Bonard, addressed the situation in Australia to be more futile than ever before.
"Interest in the UK may be getting a boost from "unbeneficial policies" at other destinations".
But Zhu also noted recent "positive updates" on relaxing travel restrictions in the US and Australia.
Australia's Group of Eight high-ranking universities enrolled 99,091 Chinese nationals in July 2021 – a 4.4% increase year-on-year. In the same period, Chinese enrollment across the country's higher education sector dropped by 8.2 per cent, giving mixed signals on the whole.
As the country emerges from the pandemic, it will be a tough call for Australia to overcome the uneven lockdown and international travel restrictions and finally welcome overseas students once and for all.