Impact of Coronavirus on Higher Education in UK

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is currently changing the way we work, study, and socialize. The coronavirus pandemic has affected thousands of people around the world, including the UK. With companies deciding to work from home, and social distancing being advised back and forth, universities in the UK have also decided to avoid face-to-face teaching to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Let’s Begin With a Brief Summary:

The UK has more than 2 million students enrolled in higher education institutions, out of which 485,645 are international students coming from all corners of the world. This country is constantly increasing in popularity due to its academic expertise and success. It is actually home to some of the top-notch universities of the world. With the current events in the world, regarding coronavirus, it is uncertain what impacts the spread of the virus will have on higher education.

COVID-19 spreads through person-to-person contact, which means being in close physical contact with someone who is infected might result in infection with the virus. Coughing or sneezing droplets are the main way of transmission, this is why it is essential to cover your mouth when you cough/sneeze with a tissue or the crook of your elbow. Most importantly, hand hygiene is crucial. Preventing the virus from spreading is in the hands of each one of us.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, universities in the UK have decided to move their classes online. Seeing the time the world, and particularly the UK, is facing at the moment, this was a vital decision to be made. Social distancing means avoiding crowded places, isolated areas where people are close to one another, and keeping a safe distance of at least 2 meters. Since keeping safe distances might be especially difficult in university areas, if classes were to continue regularly, the virus would spread at a faster pace than it already is.

(You can get more information on coronavirus if you’re an international student in the UK here).

Now, Let’s Talk Impacts:

International students have fled to their home countries or are staying in the UK while attending their digital-based classes from the comfort of their rooms. We are aware that international students bring a lot of profit to higher education institutions in the UK, or elsewhere. And, it’s a win-win situation, since UK universities offer quality education which helps students achieve the necessary skills to succeed in the global job market. And with the increasing number of international students in the past few years, this fact is a given.

In the short-term, depending on how long the current situation will hold, UK universities are unlikely to be affected by the coronavirus situation financially, UK higher education experts at portal report.

If UK universities start preparing for a “new method of teaching” in due time, and do so duly, they are actually more likely to benefit from the current situation. The digital way of teaching through online classes, video calls, or seminars is actually a convenient, flexible method which suits almost every student. So, in the long run, when everything is finally back to ‘normality’, UK universities will have expertise in online-based teaching and they will have students who won’t hesitate to try something non-traditional, whenever the situation calls.

Unfortunately, if the current coronavirus situation holds for a long period of time (we’re talking months), universities that will be most impacted by the situation are those whose majority of students are keen on the traditional way of teaching, meaning face-to-face classes. Additionally, universities that require hands-on work (practical experience) will also be impacted. Without the necessary equipment and laboratories (which, most likely, no one has at home), learning the practical way of doing something would be as useless as watching a video on how to play the piano without actually having a piano. Which is not impossible, but rather much more difficult and challenging.

What universities need to focus on, right now, is the development of online platforms. Which, luckily, is not greatly expensive. Focusing on delivering quality lectures virtually, for large numbers of students, at a vulnerable time like this is a success of the higher education institutions in the UK. The coronavirus outbreak might just give people the opportunity to enrol in one of the online courses many universities in the UK offer. Thus, financially and in the short-term, online classes are unlikely to harm the UK higher education.

If you’re uncertain what self-isolation means, take a look at our self-isolation guide.

On the Other Hand…

If the coronavirus pandemic continues spreading, making it difficult for people (read: international students) to travel to the UK, or elsewhere, higher education institutions, which are magnets for international students (like the UK), are likely to see a fall in international numbers. Since the situation is currently uncertain on a global level, it is still early to speak facts. But, one thing is for sure: prestigious UK universities are more exposed to international students, this way, if someone were to ‘suffer’ financially, in terms of international student numbers, as a result of coronavirus, it would be these universities.

Likewise, examinations are unlikely to be possible remotely. So, if the situation does continue (in the worst-case scenario), students will not be able to enter exams or graduate as planned. However, those in charge are thinking of alternate methods of examinations, which might include small groups of people within larger areas.

The Bottom Line:

Higher education in the UK is highly-regarded in the world, to say the least. The education system in this country has centuries of experience and expertise, and students from all around the world wish to be part of an education system like in the UK. Its popularity will likely remain unchanged, even after the coronavirus pandemic sees its end, or even when the Brexit transition period is over.

UK universities, as part of the higher education sector, must do what is in their power to further develop and better the flexible teaching options. In the age of technology, when all students need a laptop to hand in assignments or even complete them, having classes online would probably not be an inconvenience.

With people spending more time at home, new enrollments are fit to occur. So, creating flexible admission methods (and online platforms) might work perfectly for universities during this time, and in the long run.

Learn more on what UK universities can do for international students at the time of coronavirus.