Thursday, April 30, 2020

Poor handling of pandemic ‘could damage student recruitment’


A wide variation in different countries’ success in tackling Covid-19 could lead to major winners and losers in the coming battle to recruit international students, it has been predicted.

Perceptions that some nations have struggled to contain the outbreak could be the difference between university sectors losing either millions or billions of dollars, according to calculations by Times Higher Education.

Dire predictions about the losses that some universities could sustain were amplified last week after a report suggested that the pandemic could result in a drop in new overseas enrolments at UK universities of almost 100,000 students, a fall of close to 50 per cent.

But global education experts familiar with how international student mobility has changed over the past two decades suggest that such a dramatic downturn in recruitment might not necessarily be replicated everywhere.

Jamil Salmi, former tertiary education coordinator for the World Bank, told THE that there was plenty of evidence from recent years of students shifting their overseas study preferences.

Examples include the number of Indians studying in Australia almost halving from 2010 to 2012 after a number of racist attacks in the country and the effect on recruitment of the UK’s (now reversed) decision in 2012 to end post-study work visas.

“I do think that international student flows are very reactive to what happens,” said Dr Salmi, adding that the main factors influencing decisions about where to study abroad were a country’s visa regime, financial costs and general considerations such as safety.

Potential evidence that students might consider countries’ handling of the Covid-19 crisis can be found in recent surveys of prospective students in key nations such as India and China.

For instance, British Council survey data suggest that almost 80 per cent of Chinese and about two-thirds of Indians planning to study abroad are currently very concerned about health and well-being in host nations.

The same surveys have pointed to between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of Indian and Chinese students who have applied for a course saying that they had already cancelled or postponed their plans or were likely to do so. A further 40 per cent in China and 14 per cent in India were undecided.

Dr Salmi said international students might well scrutinise different countries’ handling of the coronavirus crisis, and even if English-speaking nations remained their favoured destinations, they might choose to switch where in the Anglosphere they study.

“You still have Australia, New Zealand and Canada that have handled [the crisis] much better than the UK or the US, and these are also English-speaking countries,” he said. “The prestige of UK and US universities will help, but still we might see some shifts, and a 10 per cent shift is a big amount of money.”

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, told THE that “Covid-19 and the tardy and inadequate responses, especially by the US and the UK governments”, were factors affecting Chinese decision-making on Western education.

He predicted that, more broadly, there might be a shift towards Asian destinations, even after the pandemic is over.

“Most of the previous demand for English-language country education will restore, but there will have been an uplift in the demand for China, Japan, Korea and also − if Taiwan permits more entry − Taiwan,” Professor Marginson said.

In its own assessment of the international higher education landscape earlier this month, credit ratings agency Moody’s pointed out that “over the next year, international student demand will be even more affected by national reputations”.

“The impact across countries could vary significantly depending on international students’ perception of how individual governments have handled the outbreak and how safe they are likely to feel living there,” its briefing note added.

Data on international student numbers and tuition fee levels from Unesco and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development suggest that major variations in recruitment could see university systems in the US and the UK losing billions of dollars while others, such as Australia and Canada, restrict the hit to hundreds of millions.

Other countries that could gain in terms of recruitment as a result of their handling of the coronavirus crisis include Germany – although with most of the country’s universities still not charging for tuition, any financial gain would mainly be to the wider economy.

However, Anna Esaki-Smith, managing director of the Education Rethink consultancy, said that although country variations might be possible, she thought “there is a greater likelihood that the unresolved nature of the outbreak will result in caution about leaving home as a whole”.

What might make a difference, she added, would be universities cutting fees. “Students and their families could well base their study-abroad decisions simply on value, more than anything else,” she said.

This article written by Simon Baker and Joyce Lau.

Source: Times Higher Education, April 30, 2020

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Australia gets poor score on international students


Australia is risking its standing as a $40 billion education destination because of lack of support for international students stranded by the coronavirus pandemic, experts warn.

Analysis commissioned by the federal government shows some countries have provided much more support to international students during the coronavirus pandemic.

The analysis, obtained by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, details how Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland have backed international students in hardship, including through access to government welfare - some paying close to $600 a week - and through flexibility on visas.

In Australia, international students are not eligible for federal welfare or JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments. The main federal assistance has been through allowing students to access superannuation, and for those employed in health, aged and disability care to work more hours.

Some limited emergency relief through charities is also available.

Increasingly, state governments have stepped in to help international students, with Victoria on Tuesday announcing a $1100 one-off payment to those who have lost income because of COVID-19.

In a statement, the Victorian government noted many students had "fallen through the cracks of federal government programs – unable to access the support they need to support themselves”.

The international comparisons have fuelled concern that Australia may be trashing its almost $40 billion international education industry and its reputation as a country that welcomes and supports international students and workers.

In a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, seen by The Age and SMH, the NSW government’s International Education Advisory Board last week pleaded for federal assistance for international students and warned of an “emerging public health and humanitarian risk”.

“If we fail to support them (international students) in their time of need, the international education sector, and Australia’s international standing, will suffer lasting reputational damage,” wrote advisory board chairman Stephen Cartwright.

The International Education Association of Australia is also pressing for greater federal support.

“Our key competitor study destination countries are showing far more generosity of spirit than Australia,” chief executive Phil Honeywood said.

“Australia is compromising the recovery of this industry while showing many of our neighbouring countries that we have little regard for the wellbeing of their young people.”

Many international students have lost part-time or casual jobs as as result of the pandemic, and are struggling to pay fees, rent, and even buy food.

Brazilian hospitality student and chef Guilherme Sena started working casual shifts in a new restaurant when coronavirus hit and ravaged Australia’s hospitality industry.

Now, like so many, he is out of work, without an income, and fearful for the future. He has some savings but they are dwindling fast. Returning to Brazil is not a realistic option.

Mr Sena shares a house in Northcote with three other hospitality workers. They have told their real estate agent they may not be able to pay rent.

He said it seemed unfair that international students who worked hard and contributed to the Australian economy were not entitled to some assistance. “This country sees students as a business. We are good for the economy. We also pay taxes and spend our money here like everyone else.”

Australia’s treatment of its more than 650,000 international students has been controversial, especially after the government told them to “go home” if they were unable to support themselves through the pandemic.

In March the government announced that $200 million would be provided to charities and community organisations to help with emergency and food relief. The package was promoted as being for “vulnerable Australians” but international workers and students are eligible.

Some states and territories have announced their own support packages and most universities are offering assorted emergency relief.

To date the Australian government has resisted calls from states, territories, councils and education lobbies for a national hardship fund for international students and for better federal coordination and promotion of the limited support available.

By contrast, international students in Britain are eligible for payments of up to 80 per cent of their usual wage under a special Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and in Canada assistance of up to $A580 a week for up to 16 weeks is available.

New Zealand international students are covered by a wage subsidy of up to $569, and in the Republic of Ireland by a special Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Britain and New Zealand have also been more flexible than Australia with visas, including offering free visa extensions to students unable to return to their home countries.

But other countries, including the United States and Japan, offer minimal, if any, assistance.

The Council of International Students Australia has called on the Morrison government to better coordinate and promote the assistance that is available.

“Like other countries we need to come up with a clear statement and package saying that ‘this is what Australia is giving international students’,” the council’s national president, Ahmed Ademoglu, said.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government was working with the education sector to minimise the impact of the pandemic.

“We are aware that like the rest of the Australian and global community the university sector is not immune from the financial impact of the virus and that it covers a breadth of people within its communities including professional staff, academics, casual staff, domestic students, and international students,” Mr Tehan said.

Home Affairs data shows that the number of student visa holders in Australia peaked at almost 652,500 in October 2019, up 34 per cent from three years earlier.

This article written by Royce Millar and Ben Schneiders.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, April 29, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020

Interest in studying in Germany grows as Covid-19 response praised


While an increasing number of students who would have been heading to the UK and the US this autumn say they are considering changing their study plans, many are turning to destinations such as Germany that have responded better to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Germany’s popularity among international students is growing based on the first results in dealing with Covid-19. Germany has one of the best health care systems in the world,” said Akos Kiraly, director of marketing and recruitment at Lancaster University Leipzig.

“I anticipate that Germany’s international student numbers will grow even stronger in the near future, especially from the EU, as many students will need to look for alternative options within the EU with English-taught programs.”

The world’s two top study destinations – the US and the UK – haven’t exactly been praised for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Borders remain closed in the US, while the UK remains on lockdown with no end in sight.

Whether students choose to study in Germany over other destinations, however, may have more to do with these destinations and their ongoing response to coronavirus.

Despite free tuition, top institutions and English-taught programs, Germany attracts fewer international students than its more expensive counterparts.

“Public health is not the only relevant factor. For example, I do believe Italy’s popularity will actually grow,” said Study.EU founder Gerrit Bruno Bl√∂ss. “Our statistics already indicate student interest at previous levels. The country was hit hard, but Italians showed remarkable morale, and thanks to social media everyone worldwide took notice.”

Additionally, Edwin Van Rest, CEO of Studyportals, said Germany “stands to benefit”, but is cautious about the overall impact. “More demand does not mean more enrolment in this situation. There are still a lot of mobility obstacles in place,” he added.

Meanwhile, new data from DAAD and DZHW shows that the number of international students in Germany continued to rise in 2019, reaching 394,665 international students overall.

In 2015, 207,804 Bildungsausländer (foreign students who did their high school qualifications outside Germany) were studying for a degree at German universities. By 2019, this number had risen to 276,122.

Germany has a more diverse range of sources of international students than other top destinations. Although China still makes up 13.2% of the international student body, with 39,871 Chinese citizens studying in Germany last year, the top 10 source countries account for only 45% of all international students.

This is compared to the US where 71.6% of international students come from the 10 largest source countries, and 65% in the UK. After India in second position, the third most common source country for international students in Germany is Syria (4.3%).

Around three out of four international students in Germany are studying at bachelor’s or master’s level. Berlin, Saxony and Thuringia have the most international students, with the latter two having overtaken Saarland and Brandenburg since 2014.

Interestingly, it’s not just in-person classes though that are getting more attention right now.

“We are also seeing a higher number of international students enrolling in online programs at German universities,” said Gent Ukehajdaraj of Studying in Germany.

“It also means international students can get a German degree without having to apply for a visa or spend significantly more money to come to Germany, while at the same time having access to all the benefits that a German degree offers such as the post-study work visa. We think distance learning will be a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic ends.”

Source: The PIE News, April 24, 2020

Covid-19 has revealed a crisis in Australian HE governance


Sectors such as airlines, gambling and tourism industries are in financial crisis and are asking for or have already received government bailouts. One sector that is also in crisis but has not received much support in the UK, the US or Australia is the higher education sector.

One reason for that in Australia is that the regulatory governance of the sector is facing a systemic crisis. The political and economic conditions that sustained the governance of the sector from its reform in the 1980s are challenged by the current impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Higher education is pivotal for the economy and has been estimated to contribute more than $66 billion to it. Yet, the current crisis has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of the regulatory governance of the sector.

It is useful to see this governance as an attempt to manage a trilemma of competing objectives: first, the widening of access in the context of strong public funding constraints; second, politically managing private and public support for tuition fees, which, in Australia, was through income-contingent loans; and third, the promotion of research competitiveness.

The heuristic value of the trilemma is that not all these policy objectives are achievable, particularly given the funding constraints and required trade-offs. To see how the governance has failed higher education, we shouldn’t focus on the trade-offs but on understanding the modes of regulatory governance – the economic foundations – through which the policy tensions and crisis were managed.

More specifically, there were three pillars of crisis management that, in turn, were dependent on the system of financialised capitalism.

The first pillar of crisis management was a system of income-contingent loans – the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) ─ a regulatory arrangement that managed public subsidies and private loans to finance higher education and the increasing privatisation of tuition.

Over time, Australia has shifted the burden to individuals. This was masked by a kind of fiscal illusion where loans were subject to future income streams, thereby making it politically easier to shift the burden of higher education financing to students.

However, the rapidly deteriorating employment situation – particularly in areas where business and law graduates are employed – will make the private burden of HECS politically more difficult to sell. In particular, the deteriorating employment situation for graduates will expose the extent to which HECS served to privatise the cost of education. HECS was a case of debt fare that depended on economic conditions that are no longer sustainable. In the absence of government funding, this will in turn create a severe funding crisis for institutions.

The second pillar of crisis management is the extensive reliance on international student enrolments. As support from public sources declined, a full 25 per cent of university revenue has come from international students – although this does vary from institution to institution. Australia’s sandstone universities – the Group of Eight (Go8) – rely on international students for about a third of their revenue.

While the largest population has been Chinese students, there have been significant increases in Indian student enrolments in Australia in the past few years.

This increased revenue has been a safety valve diffusing and shifting the burden of falling revenue – the trilemma again – to international students. It has allowed significant cross subsidisation of research in Go8 institutions.

However, this mode of crisis management was dependent on ─ among other things ─ continuing economic growth in China and India.

It also depended on the ability of middle- and lower-middle-class parents to access credit to finance the education of their children in Australia. If HECS was a local or nationally based form of debt fare, then international students were in a kind of external debt fare that depended on continued economic growth in emerging market economies that fuelled a system of debt globally.

Additionally in Australia, international students formed a part of the precarious workforce in the service sector during and after their studies through a nexus with the migration system. This is another way that international students were intimately linked to the neoliberal political and economic configuration that emerged in the 1990s.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the growth of international students had slowed, and the indications are that they will not come in the same numbers as before. But, more crucially, the political and economic structure that enables these flows is increasingly tenuous. The very substantial debt crisis in the emerging markets will puncture the supply of international systems. The changed conditions will substantially weaken a crucial policy mechanism through which universities navigated the declining amount of government funds over the past half decade.

Finally, the third form of crisis management was the introduction of demand-driven funding. The introduction of demand-driven funding – that is, tying university grants to demand for university places – was a crucial component of the higher education system to expand access to university.

Although this was in the context of declining public support for higher education, the abandonment of this system by the coalition government in late 2017 placed considerable constraints on the sector – particularly in the innovative research universities.

The current economic crisis will bring further pressure on enrolments. One of the key drivers of student enrolment after the enrolment caps were lifted was the ability of students to work and study. As anyone who works in the sector is aware, the nature of a student’s life can change with the availability of part-time work. But as the economy weakens, how much of that employment will be available? Again, this nexus illustrates how the higher education regulatory regime depended on a system of political economy that will – at best – be very difficult to sustain.

Some have suggested that the Covid-19 crisis is a failure of risk management on the part of universities not to prepare for the potential risk of being over-reliant on international student tuition fees. This is a trite point. We need to understand that the politics that drove these policies produced this risk. For example, the growth of international student numbers was a mechanism for crisis management for universities as they attempted to navigate a treacherous policy trilemma where funding was being slashed. What we’re seeing now is a crisis of the higher education regulatory state that has shaped Australian higher education since the landmark reforms of the 1980s.

This article written by Kanishka Jayasuriya, Professor of Politics & International Studies, Murdoch University.

Source: Times Higher Education, April 24, 2020

90,000 foreign graduates are stuck in Australia without financial support: it’s a humanitarian and economic crisis in the making


COVID-19 has left governments scrambling for balanced economic, social and ethical policy responses.

The Australian government’s A$130 billion JobKeeper payment – a wage subsidy to keep Australians in work – is vital for our response to the pandemic and future economic recovery.

But temporary visa holders, including international temporary graduates, have fallen through the cracks. The temporary graduate visa (subclass 485) is for international graduates of a qualification from an Australian institution. It allows them to stay in Australia for two to four years to gain work experience.

There are nearly 90,000 temporary graduate visa holders in Australia.

International graduates on temporary visas rely solely on wage income to cover their living expenses. These visa holders mainly work in industries that have suffered majored losses, such as hospitality, and they are not entitled to the JobKeeker payment.

The Tasmanian government has just announced a $3 million support package for temporary visa holders which would include 485 visa holders.

This is a first from any state or territory government and will hopefully spur similar support from universities and other jurisdictions – including from the federal government.

It’s time for Australia to be reciprocal and take care of international graduates, who are major contributors to our economy and society, in their time of need. It’s both a humanitarian issue and a sensible economic strategy.

A major drawcard for Australia

International education is Australia’s third largest export – behind iron ore and coal – and its largest services export. It contributes almost $40 billion to the Australian economy and creates around 250,000 full time jobs.

The 485 visa was introduced in 2008 and updated in 2013, taking on recommendations from the 2011 Knight Review, which recognised post-study work rights for international students as crucial for Australia to remain competitive in the education export market.

Since then, the temporary graduate visa has become a drawcard for international students. In our 2017-19 study, 76% international students indicated access to this visa was an important factor when choosing Australia as their study destination.

The top five citizenship countries of 485 visa holders in Australia have mirrored the top five source countries of international enrolments in Masters by coursework programs since 2013.

Many temporary graduate visa holders become skilled migrants or international students again. Of the of 30,952 visa holders who transitioned to other visas in the 2018-19 financial year, 45.3% became skilled migrants and 34.9% became international students again.

While international temporary graduates contribute to Australian tax revenues, they are not entitled to subsidised government services. This means they bring net income to the Australian economy.

Our temporary graduate visa survey and interviews show international graduates often desperately need work experience and an income to cover their living costs in Australia.

They do not want to compromise their career goals or permanent residency outcomes.

For this reason, they may be exploited and willing to accept jobs outside their field and in industries most vulnerable to job losses during a crisis.

Census data shows cleaning, sales and hospitality are among the top five jobs for international temporary graduates. And many are front-line workers serving the Australian community, especially in aged care, health care, supermarkets and the cleaning sector.

Other countries support them

Australia’s key competing destinations for international education are giving their international students, international graduates and other temporary workers access to their welfare schemes.

New Zealand is not restricting international students and graduates from accessing its wage subsidy scheme. Britain and Canada allow international students and graduates access to the Coronavirus Job Retention Subsidy and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, respectively.

Australia’s current policy jeopardises not only these international graduates’ security but also its competitiveness as a destination for international students.

On April 3, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent out a chilling message that international students and other temporary visa holders can return to their home countries if they were unable to support themselves.

Apart from the fact international graduates can’t return to their home countries due to border closures, many have signed rental contracts in Australia.

Others may be doing further studies.

Temporary graduates are no longer international students. As a result, they do not qualify for their former university’s hardship support funds, loans and food banks or any other resources for international students.

The international education sector and universities, which rely on the 485 visa to attract international students, have a duty of care to these visa recipients.

Universities are projected to incur significant losses for the next three years due to its loss of international students.

There are many factors that will determine how well Australia’s international education industry recovers. These include the recovery of other major provider countries of international education such as China and India who continue to grapple with this pandemic.

But when the appetite for international education returns, Australia’s efforts to manage its international students and alumni in this period could reinstate its reputation and help its economic recovery.

This article written by Ly Tran, Professor and ARC Future Fellow, Deakin University & George Tan, Adjunct Fellow, University of Adelaide.

Source: The Conversation, April 23, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

UK universities ‘face £2.6bn coronavirus hit with 30k jobs at risk’


Universities will be hit by a £2.6 billion shortfall in the next academic year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact, according to an analysis by London Economics for the University and College Union.

A report from the consultancy, which has previously compiled reports for the government and the Higher Education Policy Institute, says that most of the loss will come from a reduction in international student recruitment. The report estimates that there will be a 47 per cent decrease in international student enrolment in the next academic year due to coronavirus, costing the sector £1.5 billion.

Approximately £612 million of the £2.6 billion loss will come from a drop in domestic student enrolment, which the report estimates will fall by 16 per cent, with a further £350 million from a fall in European Union student recruitment, which the report estimates will also fall by 47 per cent.

According to the report, almost three quarters of UK institutions will be left in a “critical financial position where income only just covers expenditure”, but all institutions will be hit in some way.

And it says the loss in income could result in 30,000 jobs being lost in universities and a further 30,000 being lost in local communities, without government intervention. The knock-on effect of the income loss will be a £6 billion hit to the UK economy, it says.

The analysis looks at the impact of the economic downturn on student behaviour and the expected rate of students deferring their places and finds that, compared with 2018-19 first-year enrolments, approximately 231,895 students will no longer enrol in UK higher education in 2020-21.

This includes 111,000 fewer UK-domiciled students, 28,410 fewer EU students and 92,345 fewer non-EU students, which amounts to a total decline in international students of 120,755.

In 2018-19, UK institutions’ total income stood at £37.63 billion, more than half of which came from tuition fees and teaching grants.

The analysis split universities into four clusters: Oxbridge in cluster one; mainly pre-1992 universities in cluster two, including the rest of the Russell Group; with newer institutions in clusters three and four.

It finds that the top two clusters would be hit hardest by the loss because they are the most reliant on international students. The report estimates tuition fee income from EU and non-EU students accounted for between 51 per cent and 58 per cent of total tuition fee income in 2018-19 for clusters one and two, compared with between 11 per cent and 24 per cent for clusters 3 and 4.

Jo Grady, UCU’s general secretary, said that the results were “alarming”.

“Our world-renowned universities are doing crucial work now as we hunt for a [coronavirus] vaccine and will be vital engines for our recovery both nationally and in towns and cities across the UK. It is vital that the government underwrites funding lost from the fall in student numbers. These are unprecedented times and without urgent guarantees, our universities will be greatly damaged at just the time they are needed most,” she said.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said that the report “helpfully” highlighted the “critical financial risks for the sector”, including the risk of financial failure at some universities.

UUK has also called on the government to take “urgent action” to support institutions during the crisis caused by the pandemic with a series of proposals that include financial support and a student number cap.

However, Hepi director Nick Hillman warned against overly pessimistic predictions. “No one can accurately and securely predict what will happen with the progress of Covid-19. Nor can we know for certain its full impact on educational institutions,” he said.

He said that in recessions young people often turn to higher education rather than entering an unstable job market and added that it also seemed “odd” to assume that there will be fewer first-year enrolments at Oxford and Cambridge, when they are so severely oversubscribed every year.

“I do not underestimate the severe impact of Covid-19 on higher education,” Mr Hillman said. “But, given the diversity of our higher education sector, we must ask if it is right for modelling to assume every single institution will face a recruitment crisis right across the board.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government understands that the outbreak “poses significant financial challenges to the sector and are extremely grateful for the work universities are doing in the response.”

The chancellor has announced an “unprecedented package” of financial support and “recently confirmed universities’ eligibility for these schemes, and we are committed to working closely with the sector to understand the financial risks they might face, stabilise the admissions system, and help them access the support on offer,” the DfE said.

This article written by Anna McKie.

Source: Times Higher Education, April 23, 2020

Covid-19: universities treating staff in ‘vastly different ways’


In every sector there are examples of employers doing their best to protect staff in the wake of the coronavirus − but stories also abound of those who have shown little regard for their employees’ welfare. The higher education sector appears to be no different.

In the UK, the University of Sheffield has been praised for its handling of fixed-term staff, who faced being let go when their contracts ended. Where they were able to work from home, Sheffield said their work and pay would continue. For those who could not, or whose ongoing work has not been confirmed, the university will furlough them and top up 20 per cent of their salaries.

Similarly, King’s College London has extended for a further three months the contracts of all staff whose contracts were due to end. The institution also gave two extra days’ leave to all staff this week “to rest and recharge”.

At Queen Mary University of London, after initial reports of staff being asked to “check in” while working from home and to use holiday days for childcare, the institution backtracked and has seemingly taken positive steps to support staff.

This includes providing them with two “revitalisation” days, which staff could use as they wish. One lecturer at the university told Times Higher Education that although some staff would baulk at the implication that “we’ll be primed to provide ‘business as usual’ labour after our ‘revitalisation’, it does show an awareness of…issues around well-being and emotional health”.

However, the picture is not so rosy across the whole sector. The University of Portsmouth came under fire for pushing ahead with plans to sack eight English literature lecturers, but has since said it had postponed the move; the University of Kent has stalled a redundancy exercise but apparently plans to begin again in May; and the University of Sussex has called for the “review of all temporary agency staff arrangements”.

Jo Grady, general secretary at the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), said postponing redundancies to a later date simply meant staff were now working “with an axe over their head” in the midst of a global crisis and that UK universities had taken a “scattergun approach” to how they treat staff.

This was exemplified by Newcastle University, which received praise for announcing the introduction of a four-day week, without lowering salary, to help ease pressure on staff, particularly those looking after children. However, shortly afterwards, staff on fixed-term contracts received redundancy notices. The university has since said anyone whose contract is due to end before the end of July will have their contracts extended until 31 July and this will “supersede any letter” they may have received. “We have worked really hard as a university to put staff first,” a spokeswoman said.

“In some ways, the varying ways the sector, even within one institution, treats their staff reveals the dysfunctionality of the sector,” Dr Grady said. “If some universities can take a compassionate approach, why can’t others?”

The fractured picture is similar across the globe. In Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has even published a “score card” rating universities on how well they are looking after staff.

It shows that many, such as the University of Wollongong and Charles Darwin University, have provided little or no assurances for secure or fixed-term staff.

The Australian National University, however, has been commended for reducing workload for staff working at home, providing extra paid leave, and extending this support to, as well as the contracts of, casual staff.

In the United States, colleges and universities have taken a variety of positions on staff redundancies and pay reductions in the wake of coronavirus.

“We have seen substantial layoffs of staff, principally at small, private colleges and universities. These institutions operate at close margins and typically have been experiencing financial pressure for many years,” explained Steven Brint, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of California, Riverside.

According to a recent survey, four out of five presidents of schools with enrolments of 5,000 or fewer students have instituted or are considering layoffs. Public universities are not yet at the end of their fiscal years, and staff jobs are safe through to the end of the academic year, but few are making promises about the 2020-21 academic year, and many have put a freeze on salaries and searches, Professor Brint said.

The relief bill passed by Congress will not be enough. “To stabilise the system, we’ll need to see a stronger response from government,” Professor Brint explained.

The need for better government support was echoed widely by higher education unions. In Australia, the NTEU has called on its federal government to improve financial aid to the sector, while in the UK, the UCU has written to the Department for Education, calling on the government to underwrite funding and protect jobs.

For Dr Grady, the virus might cause a rethink of the marketised and competitive incentives that drive higher education. “Covid-19 has shown just how vulnerable the sector is and how reliant universities are on student fees, particularly international fees…but if we find a vaccine or we train more doctors and nurses − that comes from universities, [and] they and their staff have to be properly funded,” she said.

This article written by Anna McKie.

Source: Times Higher Education, April 23, 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Indian institutions' rank in Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2020


Source: Times Higher Education
The Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2020 were announced at a day-long Innovation & Impact Virtual Mini Summit and Live Rankings Launch.

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The second edition includes 766 universities from 85 countries.

The list is once again led by New Zealand’s University of Auckland, while three Australian universities complete the rest of the top four: University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and La Trobe University.

Japan is the most-represented nation in the table with 63 institutions, followed by Russia with 47 and Turkey with 37.

Globally, the top 10 institutions are listed in the exhibit.

From India, 26 institutions find place in THE Impact Rankings with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur being the top ranked institution at number 57. 

Indian institutions that find place in THE Impact Rankings 2020 are:

57 = Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kharagpur
201-300 = Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science
201-300 = JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research
201-300 = Pondicherry University
301-400 = Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham
301-400 = Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras
301-400 = Manipal Academy of Higher Education
301-400 = Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)
301-400 = Yenepoya University
401-600 = Acharya Nagarjuna University
401-600 = Anna University
401-600 = B.S. Abdur Rahman Crescent Institute of Science and Technology
401-600 = Chitkara University
401-600 = Christ University
401-600 = Don Bosco University
401-600 = Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bhubaneswar
401-600 = SRM Institute of Science and Technology
401-600 = Veltech University
601+ = AIIMS Rishikesh
601+ = Andhra University
601+ = Banasthali University
601+ = Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Gandhinagar
601+ = KIIT University
601+ = KLE University
601+ = University of Mysore
601+ = PSG College of Technology

Source: Times Higher Education, April 22, 2020

THE Impact Ranking: IIT-Kharagpur best in country, 57th globally; India’s best ever performance


The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is the most impactful Indian educational institute, according to the Times Higher Education (THE) impact ranking released today. The index ranked higher educational institutes in terms of the social and economic impact they make in society. IIT-Kharagpur has been ranked at the 57th spot globally, out of over 766 universities from 89 countries and regions.

This is, so far, India’s best ever result in a THE global ranking, according to the ranking index. The institute secured fourth position in the world for clean water and sanitation, sixth for zero hunger, 13th for climate action, joint 21st rank for no poverty and 24th for affordable and clean energy. All of these are sustainable development goals (SDGs).

In sub-categories, IIT-Madras achieved the 16th spot in industry, innovation and infrastructure and figures among the top 32 in the world for clean water and sanitation. Apart from IITs, Anna University also ranked 7th and Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science claimed the 18th spot in the world for clean water and sanitation sub-category.

Both IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Madras are among the seven IITs to have boycotted the THE global ranking earlier this month alleging lack of transparency in their ranking parameters. THE in the official statement said, “We hope this great performance will encourage others to take part and demonstrate their commitment to championing a better and more sustainable future.”

“It is the first university ranking to use this criterion, rather than traditional metrics, such as reputation and research prestige,” claims THE.

Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, commented, “It is great to see Indian universities stand as world leaders through their work towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with success in areas as diverse as clean water and sanitation, climate action and good health and wellbeing. To see IIT Kharagpur achieve India’s best ever result in a THE global rankings is a fantastic accolade to the great work universities are taking across the country to put sustainability at the heart of their missions.”

Australian universities dominate the overall ranking, securing the top four spots.

Source: Indian Express (Online Edition), April 22, 2020

On campus or online? Looking ahead to the coming academic year


These are the weeks that will determine the shape of the coming academic year for universities and colleges across the northern hemisphere. Will campuses re-open in September? Or will higher education institutions continue to rely on online delivery for the fall semester with an eye to bringing students and staff back to campus in January?

Those two scenarios are now the bookends for a number of contingency plans currently in development by institutions across North America, Europe, and beyond as the pandemic continues through this quarter.

Nobody wants to say it out loud just yet but the prospects for business as usual on higher ed campuses this September are more in doubt with every passing month. “How do you decide if it will be safe to bring students back to campus for the fall when there’s no reliable prediction of what course the disease will take?” said Lee Gardner in a recent item for the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Wait too long for clarity to emerge, and you’re scrambling. Act too soon, and you might miss the chance — albeit perhaps a slim one — for an ordinary move-in day. What happens if the virus is contained this summer, then roars back in the fall?”

Some institutions have already adopted a revised calendar for the coming academic year to better deal with this range of possibilities. Earlier this month, the University of Aberdeen became the first UK institution to announce a delayed start date. Its academic year is now scheduled to begin on 21 September (rather than 7 September). The university advises as well that, “We will soon be asking our staff to begin to prepare for the 2020/21 session by planning for online provision, which will be available to students who cannot travel to campus, or which will replace face-to-face teaching in the event of continued restrictions in September 2020.”

In the US, Beloit College has already announced a new structure for its fall semester. The Wisconsin liberal arts college will offer two seven-week “mods” this fall, rather than a single 14-week semester. “We believe that the flexibility of the modular approach allows you to plan now for your fall semester with an expectation of less disruption to your educational experience whether it is happening on-campus or off-campus,” President Scott Bierman said in a letter to students. “At this point, we have not made any decisions about extending modules into the spring semester.”

In Canada, University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur said in a recent statement to his campus community that, “Like every university, college and school in the country none of us can predict with confidence what the situation will be in September…For now, we must build full plans for the Fall term to happen at a distance. This means building on what we are learning as we complete Winter term and prepare for Spring term at a distance. We must continue to redesign courses and perhaps adjust program elements or sequencing so that students can continue to demonstrate learning in new ways.”

These early moves highlight the various scenarios institutions are considering for the fall, and the need for university and college leaders to preserve as much flexibility as possible. A survey of US colleges conducted earlier this month by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) found that nearly six in ten responding colleges (58%) are “considering or have already decided” to remain fully online for fall 2020. Almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said that they are “considering increasing, or have increased” the number of online courses available.

This last point underscores the further work going on in many institutions to better support online learning. The abrupt shift to online over the last two months allowed many students to finish their academic years but not without challenges, including a more limited class selection, a loss of experiential learning, and a recognition in many quarters that further investments would be required to improve the student experience. “The kind of remote learning that most campuses delivered on the fly during this spring’s crisis may have been sufficient for the moment,” notes Inside Higher Ed. “But it was not nearly as good as the instruction most colleges normally deliver in person or that’s available to students in many high-quality online programmes…Delivering higher-quality online or virtual instruction by the fall will take a huge amount of planning and work – and it should start soon.”

For some institutions, this sets up a pressing requirement to quickly and more substantially adapt their course catalogues for online delivery. For others, and especially those that rely heavily on lab work and other experiential learning, it may spur new cross-institution collaborations to deliver a wider range of online courses. Not that that is not already a challenging scenario, but many institutions will now be making these choices while faced with a number of escalating financial pressures arising from cancelled summer programmes, projected domestic and international enrolment shortfalls, and expected cuts in public funding for the year ahead.

Universities and colleges will accordingly pursue every opportunity to restore some level of on-campus programming and services this fall. Or, failing that, to provide a compelling online offer to bridge students through until in-person learning can safely resume. To say the least, the stakes are high with the enrolment base, and even the survival of some institutions, hanging in the balance.

Source: ICEF Monitor, April 22, 2020

The future of international HE in a post-mobility world


Borders are closed. Consulates shuttered. Planes are parked. Study abroad suspended. International students are being sent home. And we are hunkered down in our homes in a sudden, harsh, no-mobility world.

This complete shutdown of mobility has exposed an existing reality: We already live in a world in which mobility is not necessary, and sometimes perhaps not even desirable, for meaningful cross-border exchange or an international education.

Overnight, courses have moved massively, and exclusively, online and international students are continuing to study while sitting at home in their own countries. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of international meetings are taking place daily on Zoom, bringing people meaningfully together across cultures, borders, distance and in the literal absence of mobility.

These events as a consequence of COVID-19 have hastened the dawn of a new post-mobility world, or one in which physical travel is unnecessary for the creation and transmission of knowledge across borders.

Limitations of mobility

International education has long and mostly been interchangeably viewed through the lens of mobility. While internationalisation has been broadly defined to cover a wide range of activities, it is predominantly regarded as a border-crossing phenomenon.

With travel drastically reduced, university leaders are now grappling with substantial revenue loss and projected cutbacks, based on university dependencies on physically mobile students. Rather than viewing such problems from an old and limiting paradigm, we propose a shift towards a post-mobility perspective.

Well before COVID-19, there was scepticism about the necessity of physical mobility in international education, with the rise of internationalisation at home, branch campuses and microcampuses and scaled global online education as examples.

Moreover, mobility has always been a limiting concept, accessible to only a tiny fraction of those who might benefit from access to transborder higher education.

Regardless of current events, the demand for higher education will persist and grow. Indeed, hundreds of millions of people around the world lack access to higher education. This number is anticipated to increase, particularly with rising population growth in low-income countries that are already unable to accommodate current demand.

To continue operating from a former mobility world paradigm that is dependent on face-to-face interactions and physical travel would only intensify competition for a relatively small supply of moveable students and scholars. Meanwhile, the vast potential of internationalisation remains untapped and most of the world’s students remain unserved.

Another trend challenging mobility is the rise of protectionist political agendas throughout the world, raising scepticism about the value of internationalisation in comparison to national interests.

Anti-immigrant proposals and policies, such as travel bans, limiting international research collaboration in allegedly sensitive areas, restrictions on work visas and limits on international engagement are some of the perceived threats to mobility. Post-mobility models of internationalisation, in contrast, can transcend such political barriers.

Alternative models

With the sudden closure of physical facilities, faculty and students, regardless of their past training and experience, are being exposed to online learning. With this mass pivot, it has been predicted that higher education professionals will get used to working remotely and be less likely to return to “old habits of gathering”.

A wider role for online learning, online recruitment methods and a rise in teleconferencing have been predicted as some of the “residuals” to remain long past the immediate threat of COVID-19.

This shift towards online is long overdue considering the changing generations of traditional-aged college students. For the most part, Generation Z, or post-millennials, do not know a world without the internet. They are highly tech-savvy and are high consumers of social media, almost three hours daily.

In our current post-mobility world, the internet, including social media, are powerful communication channels and educational technology has made huge advances, making better-than-classroom distance learning a present-day reality.

When it comes to international education in this post-mobility context, branch campuses, microcampuses, online learning and other such forms of transnational education are less dependent on physical travel. These alternative modes of learning have mostly remained intact while traditional mobility programmes will continually be vulnerable when physical mobility is impractical or impossible.

The post-mobility world is less space bound, allowing for international partnerships to change from exporting education to collaborative models that use multinational expertise and situate education locally, while still building meaningful connections across borders and cultures.

Benefits

Access and cost control: A core deficiency of mobility-based internationalisation is that it is accessible to only a few, meaning the wealthy and well-connected or the lucky few who secure funding or fellowships.

Despite lingering detractors, technology-enhanced online learning holds real promise in offering high-quality, individualised and low-cost education at scale. The supposed trade-off between quality and scale is now mostly a defensive argument against change rather than an accurate reflection of current technological possibilities.

For example, virtual and augmented reality can give students the feel of being ‘present’ in a distant classroom from a locally-placed high-tech learning centre or even their own kitchen table – eliminating the need for bricks and mortar campuses or the cost of studying abroad.

Moreover, a collaborative online model in which local university faculty co-teach with international faculty to deliver online courses could bend the cost curve, allowing high-touch online learning at the cost of a local degree – while encouraging knowledge transfer and building capacity in the process.

Environmental sustainability: Post-mobility models of international education could also be a boon to the environment. According to one study, emissions as a result of international student mobility have doubled in five years, from 1999 to 2014, representing a sharper increase than overall global emissions.

Recent efforts by organisations and universities demonstrate a growing awareness that physical mobility comes with real costs to the environment and the world and that such costs may at times outweigh the equally real benefits of in-person exchange and cultural immersion.

Even though mobility has indisputable benefits, it is time to responsibly consider its real costs as well. From a post-mobility lens, further internationalisation plans should question whether travel is always necessary or a net-plus from a social costs perspective.

Combatting brain drain: Post-mobility models of internationalisation could also help address rising criticisms that international education is overly dominated by the Global North, resulting in brain drain in sending countries.

In a traditional mobility world, students are faced with the difficult choice of whether to leave home and when or whether to return. In a post-mobility world, students would not need to commit to a single geographic location and could also pursue an international education at home or elsewhere. Furthermore, from a post-mobility perspective, knowledge transfer is unbound from physical location and learning becomes re-situated when possible in the home country.

In sum, student mobility, as commonly referred to as physical mobility across national borders, was an antiquated approach to international education even prior to the current pandemic. In the coming post-pandemic age, it is high time for universities to fully consider the post-mobility world in which we now live and remove mobility from its perch as the sine qua non of internationalisation.

This article written by Brent White and Jenny J Lee.

Source: University World News, April 19, 2020

Universities must help shape the post-COVID-19 world


“The world will never be the same again.” This is perhaps the least hazardous prediction one can make about the consequence of the COVID-19 crisis. This crisis will surely change all societal institutions, not just the healthcare sector. The precise nature of that change is, at this time, unknowable.

The safe prediction that the world will change leaves open the form and direction this change will take. But it cannot and should not be left unguided, subject to those seeking to re-establish old systems of power. We contend that higher education must play a major role in helping to shape the post-COVID-19 world and do so by reshaping higher education itself.

The post-COVID-19 world must be based on the values we cherish: democracy, human rights and the rule of law as well as social justice, inclusion and equity. Higher education can add momentum by renewing our commitment to our core values of academic freedom, institutional autonomy and engagement by students, faculty and staff, and re-emphasising the role of higher education institutions as societal actors for the public good.

Social solidarity

We are already witnessing elements of this in the midst of the crisis. Higher education institutions, particularly academic medical centres, as well as individual staff and students, have in many instances responded with extraordinary dedication and resolve, providing desperately needed health care and research, helping assure the safety of their students and staff, supporting local businesses, donating medical equipment and teaching their students and engaging with their communities remotely.

Higher education’s role in developing skilled and dedicated doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers and other professionals has never been more important. We see medical scientists rapidly repurpose their labs better to understand the virus and engineers repurpose design and production facilities to supply much-needed personal protective equipment. And we see almost unprecedented levels of collaboration and sharing of intelligence in a globally connected race to develop vaccines.

This civic spiritedness, this social solidarity, needs to extend beyond the COVID-19 crisis and become higher education’s defining characteristic.

Echoing the Council of Europe, we contend that there are four purposes of higher education: preparation for sustainable employment, preparing students for active citizenship, personal development, creating a broad advanced knowledge base and stimulating research and innovation.

Current events, however, have led us to reconceptualise these purposes as part of a larger goal, developing and maintaining good democratic communities and societies, characterised by participation, cooperation and a commitment to the public good. Specifically, this involves the education of students for democratic citizenship and the creation of knowledge to advance the human condition.

The need for democracy will be greater in the aftermath of the crisis. We already see attempts by some government leaders to use the crisis to gather more powers into their own hands, in some cases without time limits.

We hear claims that authoritarian systems are better placed to deal with emergencies while forgetting that the tendencies of authoritarian leaders and regimes to hide inconvenient truths helped make COVID-19 a pandemic. We see concerns about rising nationalism and populism, the risk of new forms of autarchy and challenges to international solidarity, as possible outcomes of the crisis, all of which risk casting our democracies as casualties.

Sustaining a culture of democracy

Higher education can and must ensure we take a different course. As participants underlined at a Global Forum we organised with others in June 2019: “Education, including higher education, is responsible for advancing and disseminating knowledge and developing ethical and able citizens. It therefore plays an essential role in modern democratic societies. Education is key to developing, maintaining and sustaining a culture of democracy without which democratic laws, institutions and elections cannot function in practice.”

Higher education institutions, particularly research universities, are among the pre-eminent institutions in societies throughout the world. They are sources of new ideas and discoveries, including technological advances; hosts of cultural and artistic centres that foster creativity; and are local, national and global economic engines.

Most importantly, they teach the teachers and the teachers’ teachers, across all subjects, thereby helping to shape the entire schooling and educational systems at all levels.

Just as we see higher education as shaping the schooling and education systems, we see these systems as shaping the very nature of society itself. We recall the words of the Chilean sociologist Eugenio Tironi to the effect that to decide what kind of education we need we first have to decide what kind of society we want.

Higher education must engage in both debates, on the future of society as well as on the future of education. Democratic education, particularly democratic higher education, is a prerequisite for a fair, inclusive and sustainable democratic society. The COVID-19 crisis will broaden our view of sustainability; it will not make sustainability a less urgent concern.

We therefore think it essential that the democratic, civic university actively engaged with the life and problems of its community and society becomes the model of higher education in the post-COVID-19 world.

Certainly, positive steps have been taken over the past decades in this direction. But they have not been nearly sufficient. Other models of higher education remain dominant, contributing to increasingly savage inequalities and a diminished sense of public purpose.

Education for the public good

The neoliberal entrepreneurial university is a model that has gained increasing currency and power throughout the world, with devastating consequences for the values and aspirations of students, leading to a widespread sense that they are in college exclusively to gain career-related skills and credentials.

Profit for the sake of profit too often appears to be the primary purpose of institutions of higher education. This, of course, has negative impacts on both research and education for the public good.

Returning to a more traditional model, in which the university is detached from society, does not provide an effective counter to the neoliberal university. On the contrary, its internal, disciplinary focus and emphasis on elite education works against core democratic goals such as diversity, inclusion and equity.

The quality and relevance of higher education are also measured by the extent to which it offers possibilities to all students in accordance with their talents and aspirations.

Our argument, simply put, is that to create a better post-COVID-19 world requires democratic civic universities dedicated to producing knowledge and educating ethical, empathetic students for just and sustainable democratic societies.

It is essential for our future that academics, university administrators, government officials, public authorities and community partners work together to assure that what needs to happen does happen.

Article written by Ira Harkavy, Sjur Bergan, Tony Gallagher and Hilligje van’t Land.

Source: University World News, April 19, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Overseas students in Australia face ‘unequal’ support packages


Long treated as second-class citizens in Australia, international students are now bristling at inequities in the multimillion-dollar hardship packages bankrolled by universities.

With the government excluding foreign students from taxpayer-funded coronavirus assistance schemes, universities have shouldered the responsibility themselves. Almost all have unveiled funds for students affected by the pandemic, open to local and international students alike.

Assistance ranges from food hampers and short-term loans to grants of up to A$7,500 (£3,800). Most universities offer emergency payments to students affected by job losses or border closures, with many launching philanthropic appeals to complement institutional contributions.

While few universities have specified the sums they are committing to these funds, exceptions include Deakin (up to A$25 million), Monash and the University of Technology Sydney (A$15 million each), Flinders (A$12.5 million) and RMIT and the University of South Australia (A$10 million each).

But while these funds are likely to dispense hundreds of millions of dollars, some international students are unsatisfied. Grievances include payment delays and a lack of tuition fee discounts for those forced to study online.

Most hardship funds do not provide broad tuition fee waivers, with some specifically ruling them out. Exceptions include Western Sydney University, which offers foreigners a 10 per cent fee reduction, while private Bond University is cutting both domestic and international students’ fees by 20 per cent.

Some universities have also reduced fees for Chinese students, who were the first affected by the crisis. Australia banned direct entry from China almost seven weeks before it closed its border to visitors from most other countries.

For weeks, Chinese students were permitted to enter Australia provided they had spent at least a fortnight outside their homeland. Some universities offered them tuition discounts to compensate for the additional travel costs.

A European student at the University of Sydney said these discounts should now be extended to other nationalities, given that all students had now been forced online. He said distance education was inferior to face-to-face study and offered a more limited subject selection. Two units he had intended to study had been cancelled without notice, he said.

“This is unequal treatment,” the student said. “By granting a discount to some international students, universities admit that the current mode of study is not worth the same tuition fees. Universities are not fulfilling their contractual performance towards us.”

The University of Sydney said it had offered a rebate to international students who had been unable to reach Australia by 30 March, and who would consequently need to undertake an additional semester.

A spokeswoman said Sydney had “established a broader set of support packages to cover a wider range of issues” when the coronavirus crisis had forced it to stop face-to-face teaching in the last week of March. “We’ve introduced a suite of support measures for all our students, from financial assistance to technological and mental well-being support and more.”

She said online classes offered the same curriculum as face-to-face delivery, taught by the same staff, in classes that supported collaboration and interactivity wherever possible.

An executive from another university, who asked not to be named, said most universities steered clear of fee discounts for fear of encouraging a “race to the bottom” in which institutions sacrificed quality to remain competitive.

He said converting to online delivery had cost universities more than running regular courses, and distance education offered students the same qualifications and connections as on-campus teaching.

“If you’re suffering hardship, we’ve got millions of dollars to help you,” he said. “We understand we have a responsibility to help students, but we’re doing that by focusing on the students who need it – not the noisy ones who want it.”

This article written by John Ross.

Source: Times Higher Education, April 21, 2020

Startling Digital Divides In Distance Learning Emerge: UNESCO


Half of the total number of learners - some 826 million students - kept out of the classroom by the COVID-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43% (706 million) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries, according to the Teacher Task Force, an international alliance coordinated by UNESCO, on the basis of data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the International Telecommunication Union.

Disparities are particularly acute in low-income countries: in sub-Saharan Africa, 89 per cent of learners do not have access to household computers and 82% lack internet access, it added.

Furthermore, while mobile phones can enable learners access to information, connect with their teachers and with one another, about 56 million learners live in locations not served by mobile networks, almost half in sub-Saharan Africa.

"While efforts to provide connectivity to all must be multiplied, we now know that continued teaching and learning cannot be limited to online means", stated Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General.

"To lessen already existing inequalities, we must also support other alternatives including the use of community radio and television broadcasts, and creativity in all ways of learning. These are solutions we are addressing with our Global Coalition partners," she added.

Globally, at least 1.5 billion students and 63 million primary and secondary teachers are affected by the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with school closures in 191 countries.

Even for teachers in countries with reliable information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and household connectivity, the rapid transition to online learning has been challenging. For teachers in regions where ICT and other distance methodologies are less available, the transition has been even more difficult or impossible.

"These inequalities are a real threat to learning continuity at a time of unprecedented educational disruption," said Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.

"Addressing these gaps was the impetus for launching the Covid-19 Global Education Coalition, which brings together more than 90 public and private sector partners, to develop universal and equitable solutions, and make the digital revolution inclusive," she added.

The Global Education Coalition includes the International Telecommunication Union and key groups that support teachers, such as Education International, the GEMS-Varkey Foundation, the International Labour Organization and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, which recently released a Call for Action to support teachers affected by the pandemic.

Source: NDTV, April 21, 2020

Indian Internet Infra Not Prepared For Shift To Online Teaching-Learning: Report


The Indian Internet infrastructure is not ready for the paradigm shift to online learning mandated by the situation arising due to COVID-19, according to a report by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), which comes out with coveted global ranking for educational institutions. The report titled "COVID-19: A wake up call for internet service providers" is based on a survey conducted by QS IGAUGE, which rates colleges and universities in India with complete operational control held by London-based QS.

The report pointed out connectivity and signal issues as the most prevailing problems faced by students while attending online classes.

"The survey pointed out that the infrastructure in terms of technology in India has not achieved a state of quality so as to ensure sound delivery of online classes to students across the country. It is seen that both the state and the private players have not yet managed to overcome technical challenges, for instance, in providing adequate power supply and ensuring effective connectivity as the data reveals," it said.

"Although, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the world had witnessed a massive shift from the traditional Face to Face (F2F) to online platform as a mode of delivery of classes. Due to lack of proper infrastructure, a shift to a total reliance on the online platform for the delivery of lectures seems to be a distant dream," it added.

According to the report, the survey with over 7,600 respondents found that in order to use internet at home, 72.60 per cent of the respondents use mobile hotspot, 15 per cent use home broadband, 9.68 pc use WiFi dongle and 1.85 pc have poor to no internet connectivity.

"The data revealed that amongst the respondents who used home broadband, over 3 per cent faced cable cuts, 53 per cent faced poor connectivity, 11.47 per cent faced power issues and 32 per cent faced signal issues. When it came to mobile hotspot, 40.18 pc faced poor connectivity, 3.19 per cent faced power issues and 56.63 per cent faced signal issues.

"Studies and reports regarding consumption of power by state authorities reveal that the states are not using power entirely due to the COVID-19 situation, thereby leaving a surplus supply for private entities and general public," the report said.

Schools and colleges were closed in the country ahead of the nationwide lockdown announced on March 24 to contain the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown has now been extended till May 3.

"The education sector is amongst the many which has taken a strong blow due to the COVID-19 situation. No more are the stakeholders involved in higher education able to function conventionally and the prospect of operating back to the status quo seems quite uncertain.

"In such a time, the only recourse that universities and institutions across the globe are resorting to is that of functioning online," the report said.

"The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour to embrace online methods rather than F2F in education sector. The student survey was designed to investigate, examine and explore where are we positioned in terms of internet infrastructure for shifting education online," it added.

Source: NDTV, April 21, 2020

India losing out as South Asia students turn to China


China is beginning to attract more students from India’s neighbouring countries than India itself, despite India’s advantages in proximity, culture and the English language in higher education, say the authors of a new report by think tank Brookings India, who say this could reduce India’s regional soft power and higher education attractiveness.

In the past five years (2014-19), the growth in the South Asian student population at Indian universities and colleges has plateaued, notes the report titled Is India Still the Neighbourhood’s Education Hub? released last month, while the number of inbound students from India’s neighbourhood to China has increased by 176%. Numbers coming to study in China rose from 6,879 in 2011 to 18,966 in 2016.

Historically, India has been the destination of choice for students from the region – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

With the exception of Pakistan, which has a particularly close relationship with China through the latter’s Belt and Road Initiative and a fraught relationship with India including military conflicts, “almost every country in the South Asian region now sends the same number or more students to China as to India,” the report says.

In 2016, for example, there were three times more Bangladeshis studying in China (4,900) than in India and 17 times more students from Myanmar in China than in India.

China is not just a draw for students, but “India is rapidly losing attractiveness for students from neighbouring countries”, said report co-author Constantino Xavier of Brookings in New Delhi.

“We’ve seen a massive dip in the year-on-year growth of students coming into India from South Asia,” says co-author Geetika Dang, research analyst at Brookings India. “Given the cultural proximity, it really stands out.”

While students from South Asian countries excluding Pakistan still constitute half of the total foreign student population of 47,427 in India, annual growth in the number of foreign students in India from the neighbourhood has decreased from 30% year-on-year growth in 2013 to just 9% growth last year. Year-on-year growth plateaued to zero growth in 2017-18.

“These patterns – and cultural indicators – speak volumes about the subtle power shift currently underway in the South Asian region,” the report notes, adding that attracting more South Asian students to India could advance the country’s foreign policy goals as well as furthering its role as a higher education hub.

Pakistan accounts for approximately 50% of all South Asian students in China or 18,626 students out of a total 37,592.

Apart from Nepal, which accounts for 27% of foreign students in India, mainly because of fee waivers and around 3,000 Ministry of External Affairs scholarships allocated to Nepal, only slightly more than one-fifth of the total foreign student population in India or just 10,557 students now come from neighbouring countries excluding Pakistan.

The report uses figures from the All India Survey on Higher Education reports published by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, based on voluntary reporting by universities – and in 2018-19 this had a voluntary participation rate of around 94%. For China, statistics are from the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ ChinaPower Project under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The slow growth in the number of students from South Asia and the rest of the world can be attributed to a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of institutional quality in India to logistical concerns with regard to a dearth of facilities for foreign students,” the report says. Quality of life in many Indian cities is seen as low.

Main reasons

“We found a mix of reasons, including regulatory and visa hurdles, but none is more significant than the quality of higher education,” Xavier notes pointing to significant Chinese investment in higher education quality, including many programmes taught in English.

“China tremendously stepped up the amount of scholarships for students from South Asia, but in the end, it’s quality and cost competitiveness that really explains the variation in the country’s attractiveness to foreign students,” Xavier told University World News.

Despite huge investment by China in campus facilities and in attracting foreign students, Xavier notes that the key question is “not so much what is China offering but the opposite – Why are they not coming to India?”

He says the Indian government has simply not made the effort to focus on attracting foreign students or internationalising universities. “This is a larger issue about internationalisation of higher education and about the benefits of internationalisation. The thinking is not there, and that is my conclusion – that this has not been a priority for the Indian government,” Xavier says.

Over the years India has failed to provide separate infrastructure or separate facilities to attract international students and students from the region. But it has also not done any “proper analysis based on data and surveys on who the students are that are coming and what they are looking for,” says Xavier.

“We don’t know what Nepali students are coming for; we don’t know why Bangladeshi students are going to Australia and not to India – this is exactly what the Indian government should be asking itself and should be surveying that population to find out those answers and then make a proper strategy in terms of targeting them and offering them what they are actually not getting in India.”

Regulatory obstacles

Instead Xavier points to “tremendous regulatory obstacles”, such as the difficulty in getting visas. “It’s even difficult to find out which universities offer which degrees, so it is a lack of information often.”

Except for a dozen or so very active private universities, “the majority of the smaller colleges or universities do not have an active outreach programme internationally and they don’t recognise the benefit of the foreign exchange potential of attracting foreign students,” Xavier says.

The problems precede the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Xavier says. “There has been significant continuity in this lack of strategic thinking about higher education in the country which predates the current government,” he adds.

India’s ‘Study in India’ promotion campaign was allotted some funding for overseas outreach activities, but its main thrust was to invite Indian universities to provide fee discounts to foreign students.

Co-author Dang describes the Study in India programme as a failure. “We have not found any information that any university is willing to offer any discounted fees just because of the Study in India campaign,” she says.

The report recommends more fee subsidies for PhD students from neighbouring countries, preferential treatment compared to students from other regions for post-study employment visas to stay and work in India, and more collaborative research projects.

“The University Grants Commission should prioritise joint research projects and academic partnerships with universities in neighbouring countries. Hard infrastructure is urgent but not sufficient for India to win over hearts and minds in neighbouring countries. Enhancing educational connectivity should be a key priority if India wishes to retain its role as the region’s intellectual hub,” Xavier says.

Xavier adds that with the coronavirus pandemic, however, “proximity may become more salient and may benefit India more than China, Australia or Japan or the universities further away”.

“The questions of distance, transportation, worries of parents and in the farther away [countries] rather than next door – that may benefit India or may be a blessing in disguise over the next one or two years,” he said. Though it also depended on how countries were dealing with the crisis and and how soon they get out of it.

This article written by Yojana Sharma.

Source: University World News, April 19, 2020

40% of students changing study abroad plans, says survey


A growing number of prospective international students are considering changing their study abroad plans, a figure that is rising as more countries introduce tighter lockdowns to tackle the spread and rising death toll from the coronavirus, according to the latest weekly tracking survey by a European-based student search website.

The figures released on 14 April by Studyportals, the Dutch-based global study choice platform, show that 40% of potential international students responding to their latest survey said they were changing their plans. This is up from 31% three weeks ago.

The overall sample of 850 students, most from key source countries for globally mobile students, including Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh, was surveyed by Studyportals as the number of confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus soared in the United States and many European countries.

It shows the number of prospective mobile students saying they are sticking with their original plans to study abroad falling from 69% when surveyed towards the end of March to 60% in the week of 6 April.

This comparative period coincided with the rapid increase in confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 in key destination countries for internationally mobile students such as the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States.

Of the 307 students telling Studyportals they were reconsidering their options – 152 want to postpone their enrolment until next year or the year after, 128 were considering enrolling on an online course, 66 were now not planning to go abroad and would enrol at a university in their home country, 36 were considering a different country and 33 were not going to study at all. Respondents could give multiple-choice answers.

Free access to dashboard

To help make sense of the rapidly changing picture, Studyportals announced on 8 April that it was giving free access to its interactive dashboard, which is tracking student mobility trends weekly.

“This should help higher education professionals in understanding how COVID-19 is changing student search behaviours and the likely impact on global and local intakes this autumn and in 2021-22,” Carmen Neghina, senior marketing analytics consultant with Studyportals, told University World News.

The Studyportals dashboard uses two data sources: the dataset from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering in the US, which tracks the number of reported coronavirus cases and deaths, and Studyportals’ proprietary dataset for measuring student interest in global English taught programmes.

Last year Studyportals attracted over 36 million individual users to its websites, which allow students to compare English-taught undergraduate and postgraduate study options from around the world.

The dashboard shows:

• Changes in website traffic to study programmes vs outbreak death toll
• Student interest for programmes offered on-campus and online
• Student interest to different levels of education
• The effect of the virus on each country
• Changes in student interest from key focus countries.

“Normally not a lot changes from one month to the next but since the virus outbreak hit Europe and now the United States, things are moving at breakneck speed,” Neghina told University World News.

“Looking at student perceptions during the COVID-19 outbreak, our latest survey shows that 83% believe their travel options will be restricted and 68% think their parents’ savings will decrease because of the virus.

“Universities should also take note that 81% want better hygiene around the campus and 56% want online counselling and support, with 55% saying the application period should be extended,” Neghina said.

Data sharing welcomed

International student recruitment consultant Alan Preece welcomed the move by Studyportals to share its data freely with the global higher education community.

He told University World News that higher education institutions were struggling “to make important and immediate decisions to support current students while looking towards business continuity” with limited information.

“The availability of near real-time market data, giving insights into the mindset of potential students, is a powerful support to planning and action and provides a resource that can be cross-referenced to qualitative data from other sources as well as allowing gaps in data from source countries to be identified.

“Having a longitudinal and updated study is particularly helpful in understanding how trends are developing, particularly when there are year on year comparisons,” said Preece.

The data from the Studyportals dashboard compares weekly trends on student interest from different countries and includes, for example, comparative data on interest from India in studying in the UK. This was rising in the first months of 2020 after the British government relaxed post-study work visa rules and despite falling sharply from the middle of March, it staged a slight recovery in early April and is still ahead of last year despite COVID-19.

Preece told University World News that ‘smart’ globally focused institutions should be polling their recruitment agents, alumni and current students to get a more complete picture of what is going on and urged universities to be cautious of relying on any one survey “just because it supports what they want to believe”.

He recommended: “Keep asking for detail, including sample sizes, margin for error and methodology.”

Among data sources he signalled out as helpful, apart from Studyportals, was a British Council survey of nearly 11,000 Chinese students at the end of March.

This showed 39% of respondents who had applied to study internationally, most of them in the UK, undecided about cancelling their study plans for the coming academic year. A total of 22% said they were likely, or very likely, to cancel their study plans, with 27% saying they are not at all likely, or unlikely, to cancel.

The survey was run by the British Council research and consultancy team in Beijing and solicited 10,808 responses from students in China between 27 March and 3 April.

This is useful in providing a broader picture because the Studyportals’ dashboard has limited information from China, despite the country being the largest source of international students worldwide, as 90% of Studyportals website traffic comes through organic Google searches and China’s restrictive internet policies restrict access to Google.

Impact varies by country

Neghina said the impact varied from country to country in students changing their study abroad plans, with the latest data showing that 72% of international students were sticking to plans to study in Germany, which has seen fewer deaths from the virus, compared with 65% still wanting to study in the UK; 63% in the US and 61% in the Netherlands.

Interest in studying closer to home appears to be rising, with searches for study options in countries like Spain, the UK and Germany rising from home and other European students while they were falling from Asia and Africa.

“While student searches on our platforms seem to decrease as the number of COVID-19 deaths increases, one does not cause the other. Rather, it is the impact of the coronavirus deaths on government actions, such as the lockdowns and other political and economic factors, which seems to influence student intentions to study abroad,” Neghina told University World News.

She also said that the impact of COVID-19 might be just accelerating trends that were already in place, such as the shrinking international student market in the US, “where at the moment it is almost impossible for international students to make a visa appointment”.

While some global higher education experts, such as Professor Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, have warned that it could be five years before global student mobility recovers from the consequences of COVID-19, as University World News reported on 26 March 2020, Neghina cautioned that similar dire consequences were predicted for UK universities following Brexit.

“There’s a lot of speculation about what might happen when the world emerges from the pandemic and everyone still wants to recruit from countries like China and India, particularly the UK.

“With Brexit, there was a lot of talk of the UK brand being hit hard, but what our data showed was that it has been very much business as usual and student interest even increased in a number of countries.

“With our data on the impact of the coronavirus, it is clear that while interest in studying abroad is still there, there is more interest in starting programmes in 2021 or later,” she told University World News.

Neghina also said the financial impact on any collapse of international student demand for studying abroad would differ from country to country. Universities in Norway, Denmark and Germany get more government support than in countries like the UK where universities are more reliant on upfront international student fees.

This article written by Nic Mitchell who blogs about higher education for the European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers’ Association, EUPRIO.

Source: University World News, April 19, 2020

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