What to expect in the USA

One of the countries seeing some of the worst effects of the coronavirus, the United States continues to demonstrate a fragmented approach to dealing, containing, and managing COVID. While some states continue to exhibit positive numbers after shutting down swiftly, others are seeing troubling spikes. As a result, it is hard to predict what the numbers will look like in the fall, or what this means for universities.

The California State University system was on the early side when it announced it would conduct all of its classes online in the fall. While the decision to remain remote protects the health and wellness of campus community members, it may put universities in financial jeopardy. As a result, while many universities and colleges are following this model, others are attempting a return to the classroom with testing and social distancing measures in place.

What to expect in Canada

In early May, several Canadian universities announced they planned to remain online or largely so for the fall semester. This group included McGill University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Montreal, and the University of Victoria. Despite pushback from students, many universities also announced they would not implement tuition fee discounts despite the shift to remote learning.

Canadian universities which do not go completely remote will offer mixed models with smaller, in-person classes and social restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of the coronavirus.

What to expect in the UK

Even as lockdowns started easing in the UK, students received jarring news in late May: the likelihood of the continuation of online learning and/or blended learning until the summer of 2020 at least. The University of Cambridge, for example, announced it would have no face-to-face lectures for the 2020-2021 school year, although in-person smaller teaching groups were a possibility.

Michelle Donelan, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, recognized the difficulties faced by students and called on universities to be transparent about their plans. “I understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for students, so it is vital that universities are clear to students about how courses will be delivered in the coming year. I would urge students to think carefully about all their options and make informed decisions that best serve their futures,” she said.

According to the i, meanwhile, while most members of the UK’s elite Russell Group are planning on a “hybrid” model of online and remote learning for the year ahead, all did promise that campuses would at least be open to some degree.

What to expect in the Netherlands

While UK universities may have been unwilling to commit to a format for fall, many Dutch universities made the call early: In-May, several Dutch universities announced classes will be taught all or partially online until February 2021.

What to expect in South Africa

South African universities started a phased opening plan on June 1, at which time certain students were identified for reintegration into campus. These included people with disabilities, those without internet access at home, and those living in circumstances not conducive to studying. In all cases, the return to campus hinged on one condition above all else. South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr. Blade Nzimande said, “Any college or university that is not ready to reopen will stay closed. This is about safety.”

What to expect in Pakistan

In mid-July, the Pakistani government announced its decision to reopen schools and colleges on September 15. There was a caveat, however: Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said the government planned to take action against institutions which do not follow guidelines for opening. “If the crisis is not curbed, schools and universities will not be opened,” Mahmood stated.

What to expect in China

While life in China has largely returned to normal with subsiding COVID cases, the outlook for higher education -- especially for international students -- remains tenuous. While many students are planning to offer in-person classes, there are still travel restrictions disallowing international students to go to China. While there’s a chance of an update or change to this policy, China Admissions recommends contacting your specific university with questions about how to proceed.

What to expect in Kenya

While some universities in Kenya are planning on reopening, the forecast for at least one recently changed: After three employees recently died from the virus, the University of Nairobi (UoN) announced that it was officially ruling out on-campus learning for 2020. “University of Nairobi is at the epicenter of COVID-19. We are responsible people to observe how the situation is unfolding and only allow learning when we are advised by experts to do so,” Vice-Chancellor Professor Kiama Gitah said.

What to expect in the UAE

As of late June, the UAE was looking into the possibility of reopening schools, but with rigorous precautionary measures in place, including temperature checks, sterilization protocols, social distancing and other regulations.

What students think of the situation

There’s no denying that a lot is up in the air for the fall. But many students and international students are hopeful. According to a survey conducted by international education specialists IDP Connect, three-quarters of international students expected to start their university studies as planned in September 2020, with 72 percent accepting blended learning as a suitable way forward, at least for the time being.

This does not mean they are being naive about the situation, however. The report further reveals that students are depending on governments and schools to provide support and guidance across everything from healthcare to accommodations in order to ensure their safety.

Still, the report’s overall takeaway is an optimistic one. IDP Chief Executive Officer Simon Emmett asserts, “Despite the global lockdowns and travel restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, students remain determined to study abroad.” This is great news for universities and higher education in these difficult, changing times. Emmett concludes, “Although the implications of the pandemic are far-reaching, it is positive to see that the attraction of an international education at some of the best universities in the world has not changed.”

Students in coffee shop