Coronavirus Pandemic Impacting Higher Studies

The recent coronavirus pandemic has continued to change the way we live our lives. The COVID-19 crisis stormed through the countries bringing the world to a complete halt. In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, the governments closed their educational institutions. Thus, it temporarily affected the academic career of millions of students. As per UNESCO, COVID-19 has impacted around 1.2 billion students and youth across the world. This included thousands of students pursuing their higher education, locally or globally. Therefore, every level of the education system in the world has been badly disrupted.

Global Mobility Trends of 2019

According to the Global Mobility Trends as of 2019, United States of America tops the chart with 1,095,299 foreign students enrolled in 2019 followed by the United Kingdom with 496,570 international students, China with 492,185 students, Canada with 435,415 students, and Australia with 420,501 students.

However, for 2020, this may not be the case as these popular destinations for studies abroad are the most affected countries by the recent pandemic. A global survey report conducted by the International Association of Universities states that almost all higher education institutions got impacted in Europe (95%),  in the Americas (91%), and in Asia & Pacific (85%).

Sydney, Opera House during daytime

Changing Perspectives on Studying Abroad

Students aspiring to study overseas for their higher studies are changing or are delaying their study plans abroad. Students who are already studying overseas are increasingly cynical towards their expectations of how the situation will affect their study plans, study budgets, and the challenges in pursuing their studies ahead. As a result of border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, some countries like Germany have extended student visas. Many students cannot return to their homeland leaving them stranded in foreign countries with no accommodation and job.

It seems that it’s not an easy situation for the students or their families as they are bound to bear the associated cost of their higher studies along with the cost of their temporary accommodation.  Besides this, education agencies are also largely dependent upon the international students for their income but the dramatic impact in the global education caused by the pandemic leaves a big question on their financial sustainability. However, online consultation and virtual courses are rising dramatically. 

Students studying from home during the coronavirus pandemic

Distance Education

The universities around the world with hundreds of international students getting enrolled every year are severely getting hit financially. Many of them have opted online teaching to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning process ensuring minimal disruption to the studies of all the students.

However, distance education has come up with its own challenges. The technical infrastructure is not accessible to everyone for availing online classes as offered by universities. Remote education may not guarantee the same level of quality compared to classroom teaching. But, it still seems to be better than providing no education at all.

What’s next?

It’s hard to anticipate the exact end of the outbreak. However, the definition of normalcy is definitely going to change in the near future. Charles Darwin correctly said that the species who survive are the ones who can adapt according to the changing circumstances. The pedagogy in global education is in the verse of adaptation with the current circumstances. Hence, remote studies are becoming a new normal.

UNESCO has recently launched the Global COVID-19 Education Coalition. It aims to provide education accessible to all through new distance learning solutions. We can also expect some other measures such as UNESCO General Convention on Higher Education Qualifications (November 25, 2019). This can help students to get the recognition of their qualifications across borders during the current coronavirus pandemic. Thus, it will allow them to continue their education and/or seek employment opportunities abroad. With all these developments, it seems that the future holds new ways of learning and teaching globally. This would ultimately lead to shrinking the distance through innovation. 

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