Close
Study

Our most-read stories of 2020

international student news
COVID-19 dominated international student news this year. Source: Angela Weiss/AFP

Let’s not mince words. It’s been tough for international students ever since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. The impact was swift — 10 days later, Australia shut borders to all non-citizens and non-residents. It has not reopened since. Many in Canada lost jobs and with that, important sources of income. Students in the UK and US grappled with sudden campus closures, changes in visa requirements and shifts to online learning. The pandemic dominated international student news in 2020.

From Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, Manchester to Auckland, we wrote about the latest developments in international student news and chased the insights behind them. Not only did we cover government announcements, we also tracked uni responses, interviewed more students than ever before and closely followed whatever was happening on social media. 

We monitored Australia’s on-again, off-again pilot programmes to bring international students back. We tried to find similar pilot programmes in China — to no avail. We spoke to a German student who walked with her pony from Spain to Scotland, the first batch of international students to return to Australia since March — those quarantining at the Howard Springs facility, no less — several Forbes 30 under 30 winners, a Cambridge grad who founded a scholarship programme for refugees, an award-winning dual-degree filmmaker, a Zimbabwean developer of a financial app that helps international students get loans, and many more movers and shakers.

The takeaway? International students are resilient, creative and inspiring. When things got bad — and they did — they rose up to the challenges. We raise our glasses and tip our hats to you. As we wrap up the year, we visit the stories you cared about the most. Here is a selection of international student news that drew big reader interest:

The most popular four-letter word in 2020 was CERB — short for Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Anyone whose income fell to 1,000 Canadian dollars a month or less could qualify for the CA$2,000 a month benefit. Naturally, international students wanted to know more and if they qualified for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) too — or both.

No surprises here. Pandemic or not, international students want a shot of work experience in the land of opportunity. That dream stayed alive — albeit with some tweaks.


Once a dreaded chore, being able to apply for visas to study in the UK, Denmark, France and Canada again never sounded more appealing.

Interesting people are always a crowd favourite. Having graduated from Beijing Language and Culture University — with thrilling experiences in China and Mongolia — made Toussaint Williams our most popular profile of 2020.

Where Canada supported international students, Australia has kept them out. There is no clear timeline for their return. Reports were piecemeal. We tried to help with our compilation of the latest updates by state, which was widely read, commented and shared.


Speaking of keeping people out of countries, the US issued another executive order to limit entry of individuals “detrimental to the interests of the US.” Naturally, our readers needed to know who the Trump administration is targeting once more.

Special mentions: We also wrote about the best study music of 2020, the most popular e-learning courses this year and full-ride scholarships to study in Europe next year. You’ll want to check them out. Happy reading and we wish you a better, kinder 2021.

Top scholarships in UK for international students