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Weekly news roundup: Landmark backing from the United States government and further discussions about Covid-19

Lily Martin
Last Updated: 30 August 2021 • 3 min read

This week’s news comes from the UK and US, where higher education is dominated by discussions surrounding Covid-19 and the return of international students in the autumn.

New research has shown that students are willing to be vaccinated and quarantined in order to fulfil their study abroad ambitions, and the US government has announced further backing to support the country’s international education ambitions.

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

International students show support for international Covid measures

Swathes of research appear to show that international students remain committed to studying abroad despite Covid-19.

A survey conducted by Singapore educational technology firm Cialfo states that sixty per cent of teengaers with international education aspirations say that Covid-19 will not affect their plans.

This mirrors research conducted by IDP Connect, which concluded that international students are “willing to do all they can” to study on campuses this year. Over half of those surveyed were already fully vaccinated.

Fifty-seven per cent of students bound for the UK who took part in IDP Connect’s Crossroads research said they were already fully vaccinated, with thirty-one per cent saying they intended to get the vaccination “as soon as they can”. This is in spite of the fact that vaccinations are not currently compulsory for international students in the UK.

Confidence is also thought to be high for students looking to study in the UK, with eighty-six per cent of students applying to the UK expecting to start their studies as planned this year, compared to the global average of seventy-nine per cent.

Another survey has shown that over half of international students believe that universities should require vaccine passports before students are allowed onto campus.

The survey, conducted by QS, found that fifty-two per cent were in favour, out of 3,853 prospective and current international students from 159 countries.

UCU urges UK government against forced vaccinations

The UK’s University and College Union (UCU) has urged the government to park alleged plans to make vaccinations compulsory for students in higher and further education.

The Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was considering making vaccinations compulsory due to the relatively low vaccine uptake among young people.

Jo Grady, General Secretary of the University and College Union said such rules would be “hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated, alongside international students”.

The UCU had called for all students to be offered two vaccinations prior to the autumn term, however it has argued that the government should not make these compulsory.

“Students should be prioritised for vaccinations, to ensure as many as possible have the opportunity to be vaccinated by September,” Dr Grady said, “But making vaccinations compulsory as a condition to access their education is wrong and would be hugely discriminatory”.

Recent figures show that less than 60 per cent of 18 to 25 year-olds in the UK have had a first vaccination dose.

Discussions in the UK regarding compulsory vaccination mirror those happening in the United States at the moment, where compulsory vaccinations have been introduced at many colleges and universities. A US Federal Court has recently enforced Indiana University’s right to do so after a lengthy legal challenge by five students.  

Landmark joint statement commits the US to global education

A joint statement from the US Department of State and the US Department of Education, released on July 26,  has pledged to support the country’s ambitions in regards to international education.

The statement, the first in jointure from the two departments in over two decades, promises a “shared commitment” to promote the country as a study destination, alongside the benefits of global academic engagement.

“The United States cannot afford to be absent from the world stage,” it continued, with officials stressing that international education is key at a time when it is “vital to reinforce our people-to-people relationships around the globe.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, speaking at the 2021 Education USA Forum, told the sector that it can “count on” the Biden-Harris administration to do everything it can “to make your work easier”.

The joint statement, supported by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security, “underscores our commitment to working across our government with partners in higher education, the private sector, civil society and other sectors to keep promoting international education in the US,” he added.

It was also noted that international students contribute important perspectives and experiences to US classrooms and campuses, benefitting all US students - alongside the economic benefits they bring to the country. It is estimated that international students contribute more than $39 billion to the nation’s economy and supported an estimated 410,000 American jobs in 2020.

This is a landmark move by the Biden-Harris administration, offering an incorporated focus and increased cooperation between the federal government and the private sector, alongside educational institutions.

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Lily Martin
Written By
Lily Martin

Lily is a Content Writer and Editor based in Manchester, UK. She is passionate about travel, literature and higher education.

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