The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people in many different ways. The responses of our governments across the world has differed substantially. Healthcare and managing the pandemic has become a geopolitical issue, where countries have all taken different approaches to try and manage the pandemic. The pandemic has affected the higher education sector. In the UK, most universities swiftly moved to online teaching methods from March 2020 onwards. Universities across the globe have taken the same approach. The current plan for September/October 2020 starts by many universities is to use a ‘hybrid’ teaching method, where small group sessions are face-to-face, students get to use important facilities at the university, however, lectures remain online to avoid large gatherings of people.
The hybrid teaching approach that is planned in many universities seems like the obvious solution. Keeping students as safe as possible whilst maximising their educational opportunities. Many students chose to complete their entire degree online now. How hard can the transition be to distance learning? The technology has been there for years now. Back in 2007, when I was teaching at Birmingham City University, lecturers were already using Moodle and delivering valuable course content online. The same applied a few years later when I worked at the University of Exeter.
Over the course of the current pandemic, in the context of my role as an agency director, I have spoken to many colleagues across the world. Some are recruitment partners and others work at universities we partner. What have I heard?
Overall, how people perceive Covid, is incredibly varied. Some people are naturally a lot more worried than others. The message from Chinese colleagues I work with is that there will be a significant reduction in students’ travelling abroad to study to countries that they perceive still have significant issues with Covid. I have seen US recruitment agencies hit very badly over the course of the current crisis.
Indian students are caught up with issues getting their visas with embassies and language centres closed. Universities in response have diversified the range of English language tests they will accept, however, obtaining visas is a pressing issue over the upcoming months. The Swedish students we support, who are largely considering UK study options, seem to have limited concerns overall about the implications of Covid on their university experience.
One of our students, Alva, who started at the University of Essex in September 2019, will tell us more about her experiences of Covid, and how it has affected her first year at university.