We often scold the domestic system of higher education for its unwillingness to confront the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, and we scold it rightly. Meanwhile, a global survey of university leaders recently conducted by the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) shows that only a third of rectors considered their institution ready for COVID-19.
They called the most painful problems: unpreparedness of teachers, lack of necessary technologies, lack of elaboration of academic standards, social insecurity of students and damage caused by distant mental health of participants in the educational process, writes the global edition of University World News. A familiar picture, isn’t it?
So, by the beginning of the current academic year, only 37% of heads of foreign universities and colleges considered their educational institutions ready for full-fledged work in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The main priorities in this work were: health and risk management (87%); financial problems (74%); maintaining the quality of programs (70%); retention of already recruited students (67%) and recruitment of new ones (58%).
“There are certainly many differences between the situation in different regions. But the main conclusion is that from an institutional point of view, we were not ready for the new conditions, and many still consider them temporary, ”concluded the IAUP President Fernando Leon Garcia.
Another unpleasant conclusion of the authors of the study is that the focus of most universities and colleges is not so much on restructuring their entire work in a pandemic as on solving the financial problems it causes: “Is the university super-innovative, like, say, California Institute of Technology, or not, but most do not look beyond the pandemic, – stated Garcia. – But the pandemic only intensified the challenges that we faced before it began. So now is the time to identify which problems are the most recurring and which innovations are needed to ensure the quality of education. ”
With regard to typical problems, everything is clear: the main one, according to the management of universities, is the drop in income (73%). In addition, the top five include: reduced student enrollment (59%), collapse of joint projects with business and industry (56%), falling investment in infrastructure (49%) and lower income from fundraising (49%).
It would seem that all this strongly resembles the home stretch of the higher education system on the way to ruin. At the same time, according to indirect evidence, Garcia, who is also president of the University of CETYS in Mexico, concluded that the financial impact in North America seems to be higher – perhaps due to the “noticeable dependence of key players in the United States on foreign students, the number of which has not reached indicators of a year ago ”.
Meanwhile, up to half of the representatives of the foreign rectorship corps do not expect either a particularly negative or positive impact of the pandemic on the research work of universities (47%), on the volume of investments from entrepreneurs (50%) or on supporting student employment (46%). In other words, everything will remain as it was, they hope.
Nevertheless, the rating of the main problems brought by the pandemic to the higher education system, according to the study, in the eyes of the leadership of universities is as follows. The undisputed leader is the question of students’ academic success (68%). This is followed by: overall financial stability (57%), student engagement (51%), inclusiveness (49%), and a decline in student enrollment (44%). At the same time, at the moment, the main problem for universities and colleges is the preparation of teachers for online, hybrid or distance learning (58%). This is followed by troubles with the technologies required for online, hybrid or distance learning (54%); adherence to academic standards (53%); emergency financial support for students (45%) and support for mental health of students (40%).
All this is extremely important, because in the future, the overwhelming majority of respondents consider the most common ways of providing educational services: a combination of online, hybrid and personal programs (71%). In second place are purely hybrid programs (70%); in the third place are online programs (67%) and alternative educational models (66%). And this means that universities, as the classic once said, there is only one thing left: “Learn, learn and learn!”
Help “MK”: “The researchers’ findings are based on 763 responses from college and university leaders in 89 countries. 36% of responses came from Europe, 35% from North America (Canada-Mexico-USA), 15% from Asia and Oceania, and 11% from Central and South America and the Caribbean. About 62% were public universities and 38% were private institutions. ”