The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the decision of nearly 48 per cent Indian students who wanted to study abroad, according to a recent report by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Many are reconsidering their plans as the education is expensive and keeping the global crisis in mind, the options to land a job are low. However, students aspiring to study abroad can either defer their plan for an entire year or opt for online admission for at least the initial part of their course. While studying online might save them the living expense, it also takes away from the multi-cultural experience of staying on an international campus, which is a big draw, besides the possibility of earning pocket money in foreign currency.
Most of the institutes are offering their traditional courses online to the current and upcoming batches. The admission process is on, but on-campus studies are expected to resume in full-swing by 2021.
To increase enrollments for the batch of 2020, universities are offering several concessions in terms of fee-waivers, admissions on the basis of a provisional degree and accepting English proficiency certificates beyond IELTS and TOEFL.
Apart from online degrees, most universities in Australia are offering heavy fee-waivers and monetary support.
Deakin University, Australia is not only allowing students to take up courses online but is also offering easy exit options. The varsity offers refunds if the student opts out of the courses, provided they chose to enroll in another within a year from the date of deferment. Deakin has also announced up to AUD 25 million support for international students who might be facing hardships due to COVID-19.
Ravneet Pahwa, Global Deputy Vice President (Global) and CEO (South Asia), Deakin University informed indianexpress.com that even as the varsity is currently accepting enrollment for July 2020, they are anticipating a dip in the number of enrollments.
Clarifying that students pursuing courses online will not have to worry about the relevance of their education, she said, “The online degree carries the same weightage as the on-campus degree. On accepting the offer for the online to the on-campus pathway, a Confirmation of Enrolment (COE) is provided for student visa purposes. This will remain valid for both online and on-campus enrollments.”
LaTrobe University, an Australia-based business school, is also offering scholarships up to 30 per cent of the entire tuition fee of the programme, including for students who start courses online. The institute also claims to have allocated AUD 6.8 million to support international students. La Trobe also introduced a flexible refund policy to support the recruitment of students enrolling in online subjects, including full refunds for withdrawals before the census date.
Macquarie University, which offers a scholarship up to 25 per cent of the fee for the entire course, is also offering full-time courses like Global MBA and our Bachelor of Arts completely digitally via Coursera and Open Universities Australia platforms.
UK offering provisional admissions
Universities based in the United Kingdom (UK) are offering several relaxations, counselling, and special adjustments for students who have been affected by the pandemic including those who have delayed results, etc.
Karen Blackney, Head of UEA International, University of East Anglia (UEA), UK admitted that there is a decrease in the number of students wanting to physically study overseas for the upcoming intake. To ease the application process, the UEA is accepting online copies of degrees or certificates considering that the original ones might be delayed, thus allowing provisional admissions.
The University of Portsmouth, a public institute in the UK, is offering different scholarships for Indian students to cover £1,600 and a £5,000 fee for the first year. The varsity is also offering MA International Relations, one of the most sought after courses, through the online mode as well.
The varsity is also accepting a number of online English proficiency tests, considering the inability of students to appear for IELTS. It also has counsellors, academicians who are addressing queries of international students facing issues in online admission. Portsmouth, however, refuted any downward trend in the number of applications.
University of Essex, UK is revising nearly all its courses to ensure they can be offered in a blended format as well as imbibe the key takeaways of their research on the coronavirus and “ensure all programmes cover, and help to prepare our students for a post COVID world”, claims Vanessa Potter, Director of Communications and External Relations, University of Essex, UK.
The varsity will be using dual-delivery methods for 2020-2025 to ensure smooth conduct of education despite any disruptions. Essex is also providing alternative arrangements based on individual circumstances to consider any applicants who are facing issues due to the pandemic.
Potter believes that students of batch 2020 will have more options. “University entry in 2021 is likely to be very competitive and it is also worth thinking what scholarship or bursaries, etc, you might have access to this year and whether they will still be there next year.”
Career support in the US
The University of South California, Viterbi School of Engineering — which is providing an online learning environment — since 1971 offers more than 40 graduate degree programmes in this hybrid mode. One of the top picks of the university’s online offerings is the computer science programme.
Yannis C Yortsos, dean of the engineering school commented that digital classes do not mean a lack of exposure, “We celebrate all forms of diversity including diversity of ideas.”
The university also offers iPodia programme since 2009, which combines classrooms from across the globe; from India, BITS Pilani is involved in this programme. The varsity claims to support students thorough career services including advising, employer workshops, and recruitment events, and virtual networking events.
Les Roches Marbella, Spain claims to have created an immersive experience through virtual reality so that future students and their families can visit the campus digitally as an alternative to open days. Candidates will also be addressed about facilities, the different academic programmes, the admission requirements, and how to start the enrollment process among other queries.