This week has seen the UK become the first country in the world to start vaccinating people against COVID-19. It’s a big step that many sectors will be hoping bodes well for them - including the higher education sector.
Elsewhere, as the year draws to a close, many are looking ahead to the changes that the next year could bring.
In the US, Biden’s plan of student loan forgiveness is looking less likely, and in Canada, institutions are starting to pay greater attention to diversity demographics in an attempt to better understand and cater for their students.
Here’s your weekly global higher education roundup.
UK will vaccinate international students through NHS
The UK has made several moves in an attempt to sustain its place as a top destination for international students over the last week. The most significant of these is the announcement that international students will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at no extra cost. You can read our full summary of this news here.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan also wrote an open letter to international students in the UK this week, reassuring them of the government’s commitment to supporting them through the pandemic. The full letter can be read here.
And as negotiations for a Brexit deal draw to a close, several UK universities have offered incentives for EU students to continue to study in the UK.
The University of Leicester has become the first university to announce that it is freezing fees for EU students, meaning that after 31 December, they will not have to pay full international student rates, which can be up to 50% higher than domestic and current EU student rates.
The University of Aberdeen has also announced significant scholarships of up to £8,000 for EU students, saying it “remain[s] committed to building global partnerships and welcoming international students and staff as valuable members of our community”.
USA begin to look past Trump administration
A US federal judge has thrown out changes to the H1-B visa suggested by the Trump administration.
The HB-1 visa allows thousands of skilled workers entry to the US each year. The proposed new rules would have drastically reduced the number of visas available to these workers.
The visas are important for international students wishing to stay in the US after they finish their studies, and are used by many graduate employers to hire foreign skilled workers.
And president-elect Joe Biden is already facing opposition to his campaign promise of student debt forgiveness.
Biden wants to grant students $10,000 of loan forgiveness to each borrower in the hopes of ending the student debt crisis in America.
However, he has opposition from a wide variety of political perspectives, as they say that spending limited federal resources on loan forgiveness is not a priority.
Canadian universities push to better understand student diversity
Canadian universities are taking steps to increase the diversity of their faculties and better understand the backgrounds of their students.
Institutions in Canada have previously not recorded data on the demographic diversity of their students - a move that the University of Toronto is hoping to change with a voluntary questionnaire.
“We needed more awareness of our student population and the various identities that exist,” said the university’s acting vice-provost for students Micah Stickel, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.
The need for a better understanding of the university’s demographic makeup emerged from efforts to address diversity concerns across the institution.
And new figures released by Statistics Canada show that international student enrollment was up 16% in the 2018/19 academic year.
Around 48,000 more international students enrolled in Canadian universities in 2018/19 than the year before - promising news for the sector.
Whilst the effects of coronavirus on Canada’s long-term international student intake is still unknown, the data suggests that more international students are choosing to study in Canada than a few years ago.