The biggest news story of the week is undoubtedly the inauguration of Joe Biden, who succeeded Donald Trump as President of the United States on Wednesday afternoon.
The change at the head of government has big implications for international education in the US, including a positive outlook for foreign student enrollment in US colleges and universities.
In the UK, the main story is the release of the government’s interim review of the Augar Report into post-18 education and funding.
Whilst conceding that “now is not the right time to conclude the review in full” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the review makes several key points with highlighting.
Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.
Augar review promises changes for UK HE
Released this week, the government’s interim review of the Augar Report gives a clear sense of the key themes of higher education reform over the next few years.
Top of the list is improving the accessibility and attractiveness of technical qualifications and further education, with the extension of the student loan scheme outside of degree-level qualifications.
Also important was making sure that the sector remains financially sustainable by freezing the tuition fee cap, and aligning incentives with degrees that benefit the economy.
You can read our full report on the Augar review here.
The signs of the financial strain that UK universities have suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic are beginning to become clear, as multiple universities are negotiating with lenders to prevent them breaking covenants.
Universities have lost a huge amount of income since the first lockdown in March last year.
And the costs don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon, with plenty of institutions calling on the government to support them in refunding accommodation costs for students unable to return this term.
Solent University, Southampton, said that it had been able to “reset or waive” some agreements with banks after testing a number of worst-case scenarios that would’ve seen it breach conditions of lending.
There is, however, some hope, as Matt Durnin, global head of insights and consultancy at the British Council, said he saw “a path back to normal – or at least something close to it” for foreign students in the UK.
He said that UK universities could expect to see international enrollments pick up significantly over the next year due to the speedy rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, he warned that an increase in enrollments could also come with a rise in cancellations and deferrals, and that the path to ‘normal’ will be “punctuated by risk, uncertainty and probably at least a few more surprises”.
Biden inaugurated as US president
Wednesday afternoon saw the heart of the country’s government switch hands, as Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States.
Data from Common App suggests that the Biden presidency is good news for the country’s international education.
The report shows that the number of international students applying to US universities has jumped by 11 percent since Biden’s election.
It follows a trending decline over the four years of the Trump administration.
Biden and Trump’s approaches to almost every policy area are very different - and that applies to the higher education sector, too.
Higher education reform is unlikely to be at the top of Biden’s priority list, but you can read about some of the changes we might expect to see over the next four years here.
Ireland sets up student wellbeing group
The Irish government has created a group to help improve student wellbeing and engagement.
Chaired by the Union of Students in Ireland, it will identify and source strategies for improving the overall wellbeing and experience of students at the country’s higher education institutions.
The group will be made up of representatives from colleges,community education, and further education and training partners.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, said that students are faced with an “extraordinarily difficult” time which has a “massive impact on their wellbeing”.
Speaking to PIE News, the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science said they were “acutely aware” of the additional challenges faced by all students as a result of Covid-19.
“We are engaging regularly with the sector to understand the student experience as the academic year progresses.”