With the uncertainty, schools are working tirelessly to ensure enrollments stay as high as possible, which can be great news for prospective students!
According to the International Association of Universities, by April 2020 over 185 schools and universities had closed, displacing 1,542,412,000 students. At time of publication, schools have begun opening again, but it’s been a touch-and-go situation, with some closing within weeks of re-opening.
University students in Canada recently learned their 2020-2021 collegiate sports season had been cancelled. Canada’s Atlantic University Sport organization’s executive director Phil Currie addressed this cancellation, saying, “We had hoped to be able to get to a place where we could see some semblance of a regular season and postseason take place for our winter sport student-athletes. Unfortunately given the current realities in many of our regions, and evolving public health directives, this won’t be possible.” However, the organization is hopeful students may be allowed to play in the spring should cases be low and a safety plan successfully developed.
Amid the second wave of the virus, the USA's Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated guidance for universities and colleges on how to create a safer learning environment for students. Schools are encouraged to maintain social distancing, as well as follow testing protocols based upon the nature of their community. Additionally, the CDC encourages schools to use contact tracing to minimize the spread of the virus throughout institutions.
The UK government has issued guidance on how to safely reopen and operate higher education institutions, iincluding the importance of ventilation in buildings, how and when to wear face masks, how social gatherings should take place, as well as regulations for performing arts.
In the Netherlands, universities have been instructed to move all orientation activities online to minimize the amount of in-person contact. Additionally, activities that take place in person must be limited to small numbers of people, with students and staff staying 1.5 meters apart at all times. Institutions are making selections regarding opening procedures, with some opting for a hybrid model. While the Dutch aren’t currently offering financial assistance to students who are unable to pay rent due to the virus, landlords are encouraged to work with students to find solutions.
Across the world, the Chinese are focusing on keeping outbreaks minimized with continued social distancing, as well as protective measures. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, for example, students are encouraged to stay home when able, maintain social distancing on campus, and masks are mandatory at all times, unless one is eating or drinking. Staff have also been instructed to adopt “flexible working hours and staggered lunch breaks” as a means of keeping contact minimal. Finally, the University's Committee on Health Promotion and Protection (CHPP) has “activated the Emergency Response Level (the second highest level) which corresponds to a situation where the risk of a novel virus causing new and serious impact to human health in Hong Kong is high and imminent.” This means the committee will be keeping a close eye on the rapidly evolving situation to adapt as necessary.
As of November 12th, 2020, higher education institutions in India have begun a cautious approach to a partial reopening. Guided by the University Grants Commission (UGC) laid out plans, institutions will be participating in a carefully planned phased reopening. University World News explains, “A return to the normal routine of education may not return in the near future.” India currently still has a high level of COVID-19 cases, which means bringing students back to campus could be unsafe for students. In August, India's National Herald reported that a study in the journal JAMA Network Open recommended testing students every 2-3 days to keep infection numbers to a minimum.
As of November 16th, HSE University has moved back to a fully online learning environment. While campus remains open and accessible, students are no longer attending classes live. When a student does come to campus to access the facilities, a mask must be worn at all times. In an effort to help students stay connected, all professors will host virtual office hours for at least four hours a week. Exams will be held in person or online, at the discretion of the instructor. However, this new mode of instruction has proved less than ideal for some. In Russia’s remote outposts, students struggle to gain reliable internet access. In Siberia, student Alexei Dudoladov has been forced on more than one occasion to climb 26 feet into a birch tree outside his village. He says “I get on Zoom to speak to professors and prove that I am not skipping class for no reason.” Dudoladov has posted his struggles on the social media app TikTok in an attempt to raise awareness to the lack of resources students like himself are facing outside of cities.
While COVID has certainly provided challenges to students and universities, such as the ones mentioned in this article, it has also led to much innovation in hybrid and online learning, as our 2020 State of Student Recruitment Report has revealed. We found COVID has only deterred around eight percent of prospective students from studying and that well over half of students now believe the quality of online learning is of the same as on-campus learning!