Coronavirus dominates the global higher education picture again this week, with students returning for the new term bringing huge spikes in infections with them, and governments being forced into making difficult decisions about whether to issue visas that would allow international students to travel into their country to study, bringing with them the risk of infection.
The week also saw a new report from the Times Higher Education which identifies the US universities most at risk if international student numbers continue to fall there. It comes as universities around the world continue to express concerns over what a drop in international student numbers will mean for them.
Here’s your weekly higher education news round up from around the world.
Several UK universities have now made the decision to temporarily shift to fully online teaching - including the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, who have over 1,000 positive cases between them.
Students isolating in halls of residence have planned protests from their rooms, saying that they feel they have been brought back to university simply for their money, when they could have stayed at home to complete the semester.
But the universities minister has rejected calls for students to receive discounts or refunds for teaching affected by COVID-19, calling online learning “innovative” and insisting that it is of equal, if not greater value, to face-to-face teaching.
A new Times Higher Education report has revealed the US universities most affected by a decline in international students.
The report names public universities in California, Maryland, and Florida as the most at-risk financially if international students choose to stop coming to the United States in such large numbers.
It follows reports that international student numbers in the US have declined this autumn. Whether this is a one-off effect of COVID-19, or a longer-term trend potentially influenced by the Trump administration’s hostile attitude towards immigrants, remains to be seen - but, as is the case with Canada, New Zealand, and the UK, it’s bad news for universities’ pocketbooks.
Canada has decided to allow international students to return to the country, despite an uptick in their coronavirus cases. Like many other countries, Canada relies on international student fees for a significant portion of university income, and the news will come as a welcome relief to many institutions.
The Trudeau administration says that international students will be able to enter the country from 20 October, provided that they have a plan in place for a compulsory 14 day isolation that has been approved by their university.
Going the other way to Canada, New Zealand may not allow international students to enter the country again before the second half of next year – that’s according to the treasury.
The move will not be welcomed by universities, who will be hoping that an earlier arrangement can be made to end their financial struggle.
But New Zealand will be keen to maintain their status as one of the few countries worldwide that has got a grip on coronavirus - even if that means continued border restrictions for the foreseeable future.