This week’s news comes from the UK and Australasia, with increased Covid-19 rates threatening students’ return to university for the new academic year.
In the UK, the country’s new outbound mobility programme, the Turing Scheme, is showing it’s success with over 40,000 places for UK university and school students.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
A surge in cases of Covid-19 is threatening plans for students to return to university for the new academic year.
With cases at their highest levels in the Australian state of New South Wales on July 29, the Greater Sydney region has entered a month-long lockdown lasting until at least August 28.
Therefore, the state has put a hold on plans to allow international students to return to the country, not long after the state government unveiled plans to allow a limited-phased return of international students in June.
This news has not been welcomed by thousands of students who are waiting to be allowed to return to the country and university campuses, after months of online learning.
Australia has also seen a substantial decrease in the overall number of students enrolled in its universities in 2021. The nation risks losing its competitiveness in the international sector as students look elsewhere for their education.
The country has already lost nearly $6 billion AUS to its economy, as international student enrollments plummeted by more than 100,000 in the last financial year alone.
Australia’s Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge, said that “We’ll continue to work with states and territories on proposals to return international students when conditions allow.”
He added that the government’s priority is to control the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
A study by Times Higher Education has shown that most UK universities will keep lectures online into the autumn term, despite a student desire for face-to-face teaching.
Universities have been urged by MPs to make a stronger case for the benefits of blended learning, especially with fees set to not be lowered for students.
Digital learning is thought by many undergraduates to offer poorer value for money than in-person teaching, with one MP warning that Vice-Chancellors risk being forced onto the back foot.
Ministers in the UK are reportedly considering cutting the tuition cap for domestic students to £7,500 in England from just over £9,000 a year.
Three out of five universities surveyed by Times Higher Education said that most lectures would remain online.
The argument for blended learning is not supported by many students and policy-makers in the UK. Only 27 per cent of respondents to this year’s Student Academic Experience Survey felt that they were getting good value for money from their course. The survey was run by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Advance HE.
The UK’s new outbound mobility programme, the Turing Scheme, has shown its strength under the announcement that there will be 40,000 places for UK university and school students.
The scheme, worth £110m, will find mobility programmes from students across 120 universities alongside schools and colleges. The Turing Scheme was set up to replace the EU’s Erasmus+ scheme which the UK became ineligible for after Brexit.
So far, potential destinations are thought to include Canada, Japan and the United States, alongside Germany and France.
“Our schools, colleges and universities have worked tirelessly to make this programme a success and I am grateful to them and their global partners who have truly embraced this opportunity for international collaboration,” said Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.
The UK government is also set to target areas of the UK with low uptake of the Erasmus+ scheme in an attempt to improve social mobility. They added that education providers in the West Midlands are expected to receive the most funding.
With 40,000 places supported, 28,000 of these will be for university students. This is a marked increase from the programme’s predecessor which only funded 18,300 UK university students in the academic year 2018/19.
“The Turing Scheme will create opportunities for thousands of students from all over the country to gain experience working and studying abroad,” said Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International.
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