Non-local students have been one of the worst affected groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of them live in foreign countries/regions with limited social and economic support. This study examines the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its control measures on the well-being of non-local students globally. It also examines the effectiveness of university support for the well-being of non-local students. Data were derived from a global survey on non-local students’ knowledge, experiences, and well-being amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, which was conducted in April 2020 (n = 583). A significant proportion (42.6%) of the students had low well-being. We found that being worried about COVID-19 (B = − 0.206, p = 0.048), perceived disruption of academic activities (B = − 0.155, p = 0.024), perceived disruption of social activities (B = − 0.153, p = 0.044), and feeling lonely (B = − 0.340, p = 0.000) were negatively associated with the students’ well-being. However, informational support from universities was positively associated with their well-being (B = 0.225, p = 0.004). These findings are discussed in the context of higher education governance and practical changes necessary to promote non-local students’ well-being during and after the pandemic.
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- International students
- Non-local students
- University governance
- New geopolitics