Weekly news roundup: UK unis move teaching online, and Democrats take hold of US Senate

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 30, 2023
Weekly news roundup: UK unis move teaching online, and Democrats take hold of US Senate
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The first full week of the new year has certainly had its fair share of news, much of which has an impact on higher education around the world. 

Whilst in the UK the streets quietened as all four nations enter or continue strict lockdowns due to rising COVID cases, the US capitol became host to violent protests as president-elect Joe Biden was to be confirmed by congress. 

The week also saw the Democrats gain control of the US upper chamber, the Senate, as they emerged victorious in two elections in Georgia. 

And in Canada, the government and universities are being warned that they must do more to help international students if they want them to consider staying on after graduation. 

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

UK lockdown leaves students “confused” and “forgotten”

The first full week of 2021 has - perhaps unsurprisingly - seen a full-scale lockdown reimposed across the UK. 

As a consequence, universities have been told to move all teaching online for the duration of the lockdown, except for a few key courses that require face-to-face teaching. Students are being encouraged to remain at home unless travel back to campus is absolutely necessary, and those who do return must be tested twice or isolate for ten days upon returning. 

However, some universities have made the decision to move fully online in an effort to provide clarity for students in the 2021 academic year. The London School of Economics has become the first institution to move all teaching online until the end of the academic year, and the University of York has paused face-to-face teaching until the end of the spring term. 

The UK admissions service Ucas has also pushed back its deadline for applying to courses by a fortnight, meaning students wishing to attend university in the UK now have until 6pm of 29 January to submit their applications. 

The change followed news that A level exams will not go ahead in the UK this summer. Student grades will now likely be determined by teacher predictions. 

You can read more about what the new lockdown means for universities here, and the impact on face-to-face teaching here

Democrats take hold of Senate in tumultuous week for US politics

This week has seen elections for two US Senate seats take place in Georgia - a state that is typically Republican, but was narrowly taken by Democrat Joe Biden in the recent presidential election. 

And the Democrats’ winning streak hasn’t petered out yet, with Democratic candidates projected to win both contested Senate seats, taking the Democrats to a narrow Senate majority. 

This is incredibly significant for Biden - he will need congressional approval to enact many of his key policies, and with Democrats in control of both chambers, his ability to do as he pleases just became a lot wider. 

This means that his major higher education policies - free tuition and student debt forgiveness - are very much on the cards for 2021. You can read more about what a Biden presidency means for higher education here

Biden has also picked his new education secretary - former schoolteacher Miguel Cardona. 

Cardona has significant experience in pursuing diversity and equal opportunity in schools, and it is expected that, if confirmed by the Senate, this will remain a priority for him. 

Canada must provide more assistance to international students, says survey

Canada is being warned that they aren’t doing enough to help their international students during the pandemic - a mistake that could impact their future immigration targets. 

Responses from a recent survey of nearly 5,000 international students show that more than a quarter of them have lost their primary source of income due to the pandemic, but are ineligible for any government support. 

International students play a key role in Canada’s future immigration targets, with the government hoping to introduce some 1,233,000 new permanent residents into the country between 2021 and 2023.

The goal is likely to be reached partly by encouraging international graduates to stay and work in the country.

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