The Covid-19 pandemic that has gripped the entire world has brought with it an era of uncertainty. Besides everything else, the disease has had a long, gruelling and indeterminate impact on global mobility. It has taken a toll on students leaving them in a quandary regarding their further education and career. Many students enrolled in universities abroad are currently in their home country, struggling with looming travel restrictions; completion of their current degree coupled with a recessionary trend and consequent financial constraints playing on their minds; students already studying abroad are worried as to how this pandemic is taking away their opportunity to benefit from the unique ‘on campus’ experience and how the evolving situation might impact their future career plans, leading them to consider deferrals.
We at Rostrum can relate to what is going on in the minds of our students and can reasonably assure our students that international admissions would not be affected adversely.
To begin with, for the time being, most international universities have opted for a hybrid model. This has had a two-pronged effect- Firstly it has made international programs more accessible for the middle-income aspirants on account of reduced overseas travel and stay expenditure leading to a large increase in the number of applications; Secondly, it has also enabled universities to go in for a larger intake of students. Having said this, we must take into cognizance that competition is likely to intensify this year and going forward since many students who had deferred their plans to study abroad in 2020 would be applying in the coming years.
Universities worldwide have endeavoured to adapt and rather simplify the entire admission process for students keeping in mind the constraints arising out of the pandemic. For example, several top universities have turned test-blind, test flexible or test-optional during this time. Exams such as the SAT, ACT, GRE and GMAT have been waived off, the APS, LSAT and several others have moved online and admissions are being offered on the basis of provisional scores.
Several universities in the United Kingdom are accepting online copies of degree certificates in view of the fact that producing the original copies could be difficult for students currently. Several universities such as Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Northeastern University, Yale University, University College London (UCL) have adopted the convenient, fast and affordable online Duolingo English Test (DET) as stand-alone proof or as a supplement to other English-language proficiency measures keeping in mind that local closures have affected test centres around the world.
Course curricula have been restructured and blended learning has fast been adopted. Alternatives to traditional teaching such as pre-recorded lectures, online assignments, online and open book exams have been adopted and are being taken well by students to adapt to the given situation.
Moreover, facilities of fee deferral have been offered to students to ease the financial pressure. There is a reduced fee structure at various universities as well, allowing more international students to opt for higher education abroad despite COVID-19. Australia is one such country offering fee-waivers and financial support to aspirants seeking admission to institutions in the country.
Universities that have opened up for international students to return for offline classes also do realize the fear in the minds of students and families and have put in place impeccable Covid-19 protocols. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) for instance has laid down strict contact tracing, isolation and quarantine protocols along with mandatory face covering and Covid-19 testing and training policies. Undergraduate students have been instructed to get tested (at zero cost) on a twice-per-week test schedule and are asked to test more frequently if they believe the student might have a higher risk of recent exposure.
India’s unemployment rate rose to a four-month high of nearly 8% in the month of April owing to the deadly second wave and the outlook remains bleak with more than seven million jobs lost last month, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a private research firm. More and more Indian students are considering applying to foreign countries in search of better income opportunities to ride the Covid-led slump in the local job market. There is indeed a myriad of opportunities for these students out there to realize their career goals.
In fact, United Kingdom recently announced that from 1 July 2021, international students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree will be able to benefit from two years’ work experience in the UK on graduation. These post-study work visas are bound to attract a large number of students.
While it is difficult to see things coming back to being completely normal in the short to medium term and even international travel likely to take time to rebound, the trend clearly indicates that global student mobility has grown steadily and reliably over the past three decades notwithstanding all crises. We encourage students to not let the pandemic overpower their dreams and goals. At the end of the day, the key to success lies in adapting to changing scenarios.