The two biggest news stories of the week - Biden’s election and the possibility of a working coronavirus vaccine - have as much of an impact on global higher education as they do in almost every other area.
American institutions will be hoping for greater investment and more lenient immigration policies from the Biden administration, with the intention of reconsolidating their place at the top of the world’s higher education leaderboard.
And as the world waits for a vaccine that could bring us back to some semblance of normalcy, the UK government has laid out plans to test every student in England before they travel home for Christmas.
Here’s your weekly global higher education news roundup.
English unis to start mass testing programme to allow Christmas travel
The biggest news for students this week comes from the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan, who has written to vice-chancellors outlining her plan to test students en masse in order to send them home for Christmas.
The scheme is designed to allow students to return home during a week-long ‘window’, where they will have received a negative test result, and therefore can travel safely.
Critics have said that the plan is “riddled with holes”, and that leaving just one week for students to travel across the country leaves “little room for error”.
However, some students have reacted more positively - speaking to Edvoy earlier this week, Criminology and Sociology student Jack Anderson said that the plan was a “great idea” that “if done efficiently and safely, could give students some kind of Christmas this year”. You can read our full summary of this story here.
In more positive news for universities, the country’s first ever “international education champion” has said that the UK government’s target to grow international student enrollment to 600,000 students is “still achievable,” despite the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sir Steve Smith said that he was still anticipating a “significant increase in international education” in the longer-term, though the full effects of the pandemic have yet to be seen.
It was previously estimated that the UK economy would lose at least £460 million from overseas students choosing not to study in the UK due to COVID-19.
But more recent numbers from UCAS suggest that the pandemic has had less effect on international enrollment than anticipated, with UK universities seeing a nine percent increase in undergraduate students from outside the UK and EU starting courses this autumn.
UK universities are greatly reliant on international student fees for funding, meaning that Sir Smith’s estimation will come as a welcome relief to many.
Academics and students welcome Biden victory in the US
Democratic candidate Joe Biden has won the American presidential election in a victory that will be welcomed by many students and higher education professionals alike.
Biden has some radical plans for the US higher education sector, such as free college and debt relief, but as the Republicans look set to (just) hold control of the Senate, he may not be able to fulfill every single promise.
You can take a look at our analysis of what a Biden presidency means for the sector here.
And even more US universities announce that teaching will be online for the remainder of the semester following Thanksgiving, including all State University of New York (SUNY) campuses. The announcements follow the news last week that over 250,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported on American college campuses, making them a hotspot for the spread of the virus.
Canadian immigration targets “positive” sign for international students
The Canadian government has set a target of introducing some 1,233,000 new permanent residents into the country between 2021 and 2023, in a move that Universities Canada say will be a “positive signal” for international students.
The goal is likely to be reached partly by encouraging international graduates to stay and work in the country.
Speaking to PIE news, Wendy Therrien, director of research and external relations at Universities Canada, called the new immigration targets “a positive signal to international students that Canada is eager to welcome skilled talent from around the world”.
“Graduates of Canadian universities can benefit from clear government pathways to immigration if they wish to stay in Canada after their studies,” she said.