Like the economies and lives of millions of people around the world, the coronavirus crisis is dramatically changing higher education Academics.
Colleges have closed, classes have been suspended, or are taught online.
Academic conferences have also been canceled. Students who were participating in programs abroad will not be able to be evaluated and some of them cannot return to their home countries yet. Academics have been asked not to travel to countries affected by the pandemic or to avoid international travel altogether.
What will be the implications of the coronavirus crisis for higher education in the medium and long term? In short: not so many. Some colleagues predict an unintended positive impact on this educational level, in particular the increase in online teaching and learning and a more diverse international student recruitment policy, no longer depending on countries such as China.
In our opinion, the traditional trends in international higher education will remain and the field of higher education will eventually return to its normal routines.
However, perhaps the return will bring other problems such as less financial stability, which had already been occurring in several countries.
There will undoubtedly be a decrease in mobility over the next year, with notable decreases in the total volume of global student mobility and with particular implications in the number of students from China.
This decline – hopefully temporary – will surely be the end of the boom of Chinese international students in the world that began two decades ago.
Thus, a temporary significant drop is expected and perhaps a more modest one in the long term, although China will remain the country that sends the largest number of students in the world for a good period.
At one time Iran was one of the main countries that sent students to other countries and today it plays a peripheral role in terms of sending students. Other increases will come from Africa, mainly Nigeria and Kenya.
Financial dependence of international students
Some countries that host students, notably Australia, somehow the United Kingdom, and some institutions of higher education with little prestige in the United States have begun to depend on the tuition paid by international students to survive financially. After all, international education is a global industry with a profit of nearly $ 300 billion.
In principle, the institutions that depend on these resources to survive will face multiple difficulties. This crisis is perhaps a sign that, from various angles, it is not right to consider international education – mainly – as a generator of money.
And that perhaps we had not considered all the risks involved in it. As a consequence, paradoxically, governments, and academic institutions may redouble their efforts to attract a greater number of students.
Technology and internationalization: The end of mobility?
Many institutions of higher education are teaching their students using multiple online resources since virtually all universities are closed; we are skeptical, however, as to whether what has been offered in most cases is of high academic quality, and to what extent students are satisfied with what they have received so far.
It is by no means an exaggeration to point out that the vast majority of academics in the world are not qualified to offer distance courses; that they also do not have enough technology to do so, and that very few higher education institutions have adapted their curriculum to be taught at a distance.
Some have argued that international students seeking a study degree will eventually seek more and more courses online. This is not the first time this has been predicted; It has happened slowly and mostly for continuing education.
It is safer that the vast majority of international students continue to prefer the experience of studying in another country and seek work in another country, permanently or temporarily, at the end of their studies.
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Without a doubt, the coronavirus is a serious problem for our societies, individuals, and, of course, for higher education institutions. There are several serious problems regarding internationalization and online education, these include high dependence on the contributions of international students to the finances of many universities, meeting high-quality standards, instability in mobility plans, among many others
The world’s higher education institutions are doing an impressive job of handling the crisis in difficult circumstances, but learning the long-term lessons and effective planning strategies has not been exactly something the academic community is very used to doing. Will the coronavirus crisis be that call that finally awakens her?
Image Credit: how covid-19 affects college academics by envato.com
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