Weekly news roundup: US and NZ elections highlight the politics of higher education

Nicole Wootton-Cane
Nicole Wootton-Cane

23 October 2020 • 4 min read

In a week where elections have been top of the news agenda, we’ve been reminded of how much politics shapes higher education policy. 

The upcoming US election - which is entering its final week of campaigning - will undoubtedly influence the direction of higher education in the States for years to come. Trump’s anti-immigration policies are a worry for both international students and those who benefit from their talent and the money they bring with them. Biden leads in most polls, but everyone knows an upset is more than possible. You can read our analysis of what each candidate will do for students here

And in New Zealand, the Labour Party’s landslide victory could see the country’s harsh restrictions on international students entering the country eased - if only a little. New Zealanders are concerned about what opening the border will mean for COVID cases, but now the Labour Party has a majority, they no longer have to work so closely with anti-immigration parties. Will this signal a policy change going forwards?

Here’s your roundup of the main higher education news around the world this week.

UK

Students across the UK are withholding their rent from universities in protest of their treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last month has seen thousands of students across the country locked in university halls as coronavirus cases soared, with many universities choosing to move teaching fully online at least until the end of October. 

Groups have also been organised under the name Students Before Profit at universities such as Manchester, Glasgow, and Liverpool, who are campaigning for better conditions for students whilst they are locked down in halls. 

Over the next few weeks we’ll likely see universities make decisions about how much teaching – if any – to hold in-person for the remainder of the semester. It’s also likely that the government will start to release plans about how to get students home for Christmas, which could see them locked down for a further two weeks prior to the end of term.

USA

As expected, the American presidential election is dominating the higher education headlines in the US this week. Politics – quite literally – came to campus, as Donald Trump and Joe Biden held their second and final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee last night. 

Significantly, several prestigious science publications have warned against reelecting Trump, breaking their usual political silence to condemn his approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic. 

Speaking to the Times Higher Education, editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Eric Rubin said that he hoped the condemnation was something the journal's editors never have to do again.

“We want to be seen as being dispassionate judges of science, clinical medicine and public health, but this is an extraordinary time with catastrophic mismanagement leading to an enormous number of deaths.”

Canada

Canadian authorities this week have announced a list of universities approved for reopening to international students. 

The move comes after Canada decided to cautiously reopen its national borders to international students, despite an increase in coronavirus cases. 

Approved universities include Edvoy partners Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Thompson Rivers University, University Canada West, and University of Prince Edward Island.


New Zealand

The victory of Jacinda Arden’s Labour Party last week in New Zealand could spell an end to the country’s harsh restrictions placed on international travel and border control.

The Party has won a rare outright parliamentary majority, meaning that they no longer have to work in coalition with New Zealand First, a minority party with an anti-immigration stance. 

However, New Zealanders across the board are generally opposed to reopening their country’s borders, fearing for the loss of their success in beating coronavirus. 

Whether Ms Arden chooses to soften their policies towards international students and risk alienating some of her new voters remains to be seen, but the election results certainly shed some hope onto what has been a bleak few months for foreign students in the country.

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Nicole Wootton-Cane
Written By
Nicole Wootton-Cane

Nicole lives in Manchester and is a Content Writer and Editor at Edvoy and journalist.


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