Weekly news roundup: UK govt announces more funding for pandemic-hit students, and US dominates new league table

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
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In a week where the UK government announced that university students should not return to campus until at least mid-March, extra funding has been given to support those affected by the pandemic. 

It is perhaps the start of a move towards providing universities with the money they’ve been asking for, to replace lost accommodation and tuition fees.

However, in Australia, students are using the pandemic to their advantage and enrolling in multiple online courses before deciding on their university of choice. 

And the USA dominates a new “truly global” league table, taking 16 out of the top 20 spots.

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup.

UK government announced £50m for COVID-affected students

The UK government has announced £50 million in extra funding for students affected by the pandemic, including international students. 

Universities minister Michelle Donelan said that this was an “incredibly difficult and challenging time for students,” and that the money was intended to “provide real, tangible help for those students struggling financially during the pandemic.”

However, a cross-party parliamentary group has called on the government to create an emergency hardship fund worth £700 million for students, saying that the £50 million is not sufficient.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students said that the money should be used to refund those unable to return to university accommodation that they are renting, and help students who are missing out on income from part-time jobs. 

Led by Labour MP Paul Blomfield, the group have also called for the creation of a “learning remediation fund” that would serve to replace lost teaching and various other learning experiences, such as field trips. 

This could also include the introduction of summer programmes for students to undertake in order to replace term-time teaching.

“The pandemic has inflicted huge costs on all of us, and students cannot be neglected,” Mr Blomfield said.

“It’s a call for major action by the government, but it’s essential to protect future generations and our universities. I hope the universities minister will back these proposals.”

And the government has also confirmed that face-to-face teaching will not go ahead at UK universities until at least 8 March. 

Updated guidance says that plans to allow students to return to campus “should be postponed until at least 8 March”.

“Providers should not offer in-person teaching before then, or later if further guidance to this effect is issued, and should encourage students to remain at their current accommodation until the resumption of their in-person teaching, wherever possible.”

Several universities including the London School of Economics (LSE) have already announced their intention to keep all teaching online until the end of the academic year. 

US universities dominate new rankings

A new university ranking system billed as being “truly global” has placed US universities in 16 of its top 20 spots. 

The rankings, compiled by AppliedHE, brings together the most influential rankings in the world from the likes of Times Higher Education, Shanghai Rankings, and the QS World University rankings. 

The league table intends to clarify HE rankings for students, employers, and other interested parties.

Stanford, Harvard, and MIT took the top three places respectively, with the UK’s University of Oxford and University of Cambridge ranking fourth and fifth. 

Australian students shopping for degrees

New students in Australia are taking a ‘try before you buy’ approach to degree courses, with online teaching allowing them to sample majors before committing to them.

The students are enrolling in multiple universities and attending classes for several courses before tuition fees start accruing. 

This can make it challenging for universities to plan ahead, as student numbers aren’t always what they initially seem.

The trend is of particular concern given the Australian government’s decision to keep the country’s borders closed for the foreseeable future.

However, the number of international student complaints in the country fell during 2020, according to the Overseas Students Ombudsman, suggesting that Australian online education is still viewed as valuable by international students.

Find out more about higher education news around the world by visiting the Edvoy website.

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