Weekly news roundup: UK unis left in the dark as lockdown eases, and more US colleges will require vaccine

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 31, 2023
Weekly news roundup: UK unis left in the dark as lockdown eases, and more US colleges will require vaccine
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In a week where the UK started to get ready for its biggest lockdown easing yet, universities were still left largely in the dark about when students will be allowed to return to campus.

The future of international education is still hanging in the balance - as vaccines become more widely available, it looks like more and more universities may require international students to have the jab before they travel. 

A recent survey from education think tank QS found that 65% of current and prospective international students are open to taking the vaccine - but will it be easily accessible to them all? And where does that leave the other 35%?

All questions we should expect to see answered within the coming months. For now, it looks like online learning will be the main way students see off the 2020/21 academic year in the UK and North America.

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

UK uni leaders appeal over ‘illogical’ reopening rules

UK university leaders are calling for greater clarity from the government over reopening campuses as the nations ease their lockdown restrictions. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the public on Monday evening, announcing that the next phase of lockdown easing will go ahead as planned from 12 April.

The lifting of restrictions will see pub gardens, hairdressers, gyms, and non-essential retail open for the first time since January. 

However, the government has yet to address the burning question of when university campuses will be allowed to welcome the majority of their students back.

Currently, only those on practical courses are given face-to-face teaching, with all other UK students learning online. 

“On behalf of our member students and staff we are disappointed that, following this most recent government review, the PM has made no commitment for the remaining higher education students to be allowed to return to campus and in person teaching from 12th April. 

“This is despite overwhelming evidence that our university campuses remain Covid secure with minimal outbreaks and risk to the wider community. We will continue to work closely with the Minister for Universities and Department for Education senior officials to make the case for the urgent return of all remaining students.”

And two weeks ago, we reported that university leaders were calling on the government to ensure that research funding did not suffer a drastic cut following Brexit. 

This week saw the government respond to those calls, pledging the necessary £250m of research funding to allow the UK to stay in the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme. 

In a statement, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “This investment reinforces the government’s commitment to putting research and development at the heart of plans to build back better from the pandemic.

“It will support vital and pioneering research while enabling the UK’s brilliant scientists, researchers and businesses to access and benefit from the world’s largest collaborative research programme, Horizon Europe – worth about €95bn (£80bn) over the next decade.”

More US colleges say students will need vaccine

More US colleges have announced that students will not be allowed to enroll on campus next academic year without proof that they have received the coronavirus vaccine. 

Rutgers University in New Jersey was the first to implement the policy several weeks ago. Now, the list includes at least ten institutions, with others expected to follow suit. 

These include Cornell University, Brown University, Northeastern University, Fort Lewis University, and St. Edwards University. 

Ireland launch int’l student employment tool

The Irish Universities Association (IAU) has announced a new tool designed to help international students in Ireland find graduate jobs.

Employable You is designed to identify issues that graduates face when finding employment and tackle them head on, providing advice on the ‘hidden’ job market, internships, and more. 

“The pandemic has altered student routines including job fairs and networking so it’s more crucial than ever that we support our international students to be as work-ready as possible upon graduation,” said Anna Cunningham, director of International at NUI Galway and chair of the IUA International Directors Group.

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