The Wearside economy could be boosted by an inflow of international students as the UK benefits from its vaccine victory over Covid-19.

Applications for foreign study declined dramatically across the world of education as the worldwide health crisis hit travel and movement.

But as the UK leads the world out of the pandemic with falling infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, it is likely to become more of a magnet for 2021’s international students.

The University of Sunderland has already seen an increase in applications this year and in the next few months will seek to turn that increase into a surge.

Figures show that Covid-19 had a big impact on international students, with thousands returning home from universities abroad to observe social distancing and study online.

Throughout the pandemic, the university saw a 7.5 per cent increase in enrolments from overseas students, with applications this academic year increasing by 17.5 per cent.

This week, the university was encouraging overseas students to start coming back onto campus through its International Online Open Day.

One of the university’s success stories – Florian Hildebrand, from Germany, who graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 2013 was among those promoting the value of a course on Wearside.

“The student experience I had was just amazing,” the 30-year-old said.

“There was a great balance between fun, studying, partying and sports. I literally said on the first night I’m not going to leave, I’m going to stay here forever.

“Super modern facilities – I remember walking in and there were all these Mac computers and modern PCs, and that was something I was not used to.”

Florian, who returned to Germany in 2015, is co-founder and managing partner of Qualifyze, which uses a global digital network to help pharmaceutical firms manage quality and compliance in their supply chains.

Earlier this year he received an award nomination for his efforts in helping keep critical drug supplies going during the coronavirus crisis.

Florian believes studying on Wearside equipped him with the skills he needed for his success journey as well as helping him flourish as a person.

“It’s the excitement of living abroad, starting a new life in an unknown environment and the friends I made,” he explained.

“I really felt like I was getting a personal breakthrough into what I really wanted to do, and it gave me a new perspective.

“It was a much more practical approach to study, so lots of projects and experiments, which I really liked.

“The city had beautiful nature all around it and I felt welcome from day one.

“When I used to walk over to St Peter’s Campus, I really enjoyed the mornings when the sun would just shine across the bridge and I would see the Stadium of Light. It was always a very beautiful trip.”

Ian Moody is deputy director of international at the University of Sunderland, said: “The impact of the pandemic has really changed how we engage with prospective students.

“This means that our online presence and digital space is more important than ever.

“Throughout the pandemic, demand from overseas has remained strong which was demonstrated by a 7.5 per cent increase in enrolments from international students.

“With applications this year increasing by 17.5 per cent, I am extremely confident that we will continue the growth in enrolments for the upcoming academic year.”

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