The UK has become the first country to begin to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, starting in NHS hospitals this week.
Following the recent approval of the Pfizer/Biotech vaccine by the MHRA, NHS staff and those over the age of 80 will be first in line to be given the shot.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough for 20 million people. It is also likely that, in the new year, other vaccines will be similarly approved and rolled out across the country.
The initial rollout of the vaccine is unlikely to have a big impact on students, unless they are student nurses or other NHS frontline healthcare professionals.
However, the promise of a vaccine has significant long-term effects for the higher education sector. It has been a tough year for both universities and their students, with many worrying that online teaching and social distancing will lead to a less satisfactory university experience.
Vaccine approval has boosted students’ hopes for a return to a more traditional university experience in the near future - both academically and socially.
A recent QS study found that nearly a quarter of international students are thinking about bringing forward their study abroad plans because of the positive news.
The study, which surveyed 887 prospective students from China, India, Pakistan, the UK, and the US, found that 21% of them said that vaccine advancements had encouraged them to consider bringing their studies forward.
Jessica Turner, managing director of QS, called the news “encouraging” for the higher education sector.
“Our latest insight shows that a potential Covid-19 vaccine would prompt many international students to bring forward their plans for studying abroad.
“While some universities didn’t suffer the reduction in international students at the start of the academic year that many had feared, a significant proportion of current international students didn’t travel to their study destination of choice due to either a lack of face-to-face teaching provision or travel restrictions.
“A Covid-19 vaccine will be able to significantly tackle both of these obstacles for prospective students planning to study abroad, which is encouraging news for the future of global HE.”