In a time of a severe global public health crisis like COVID-19, how can students pursue foreign education? So how will institutions of higher education in the post-pandemic period participate in successful international collaboration on education?
Many people around the world still believe that studying abroad is a ticket to high-quality higher education, becoming globally competent, and improving employability in increasingly globalized labor markets.
On the other hand, international cooperation in education is seen as an instrumental approach to capacity building for institutions of higher education, as well as the education system of a country. Just as competition for the best minds to join the global fight against the pandemic is higher than ever. International education continues to be a priority both of higher education institutions and of students.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has seen many students disturbing research discovery abroad. Willingly or unwillingly, an vast number of them have returned to their homelands to complete the remainder of their semesters or online courses. However, as infection figures continue to rise with deaths in most countries, and given the pandemic-induced threats and uncertainty, many parents have changed their plans to send their children to study abroad.
Nonetheless, the higher education sector faced a plethora of problems long before the pandemic, such as increasingly escalating prices, lower graduation levels and widening disconnect from potential workforce needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation owing to the decreased budgets or revenues of higher education institutions, which now face the dynamic task of digitizing courses and preparing teachers for the modern “remote education” modalities. When the world adapts to the new norm, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the pandemic will have long-term implications on higher education.
As higher education institutions worldwide are under growing financial pressure, a cost-effective solution to attracting and maintaining foreign students would be the joint institutions / programmes. Without heavy infrastructure investment, it offers international education in a more flexible and agile way, and allows students to access quality education — similar to that offered by higher education institutions abroad but without the associated risks and costs of traveling overseas.
From another standpoint, online is becoming “increasingly mainstream” because of the COVID-19 pandemic after decades of slow and steady adoption by the higher education sector. Online education also facilitates the development of joint education programs in which local and foreign education providers can establish a partnership to offer joint education programs with a tech-based approach.
The move to online classes has also provided opportunities for articulation programs to be established, and these joint educational programs do not require any formal integration of international courses and resources. Typical articulation programs are based on “2 + 2” or “3 + 1” models, i.e. a student spends two years in their country of origin and then the next two years in the partner institution abroad, or three years in their home country and one year in the partner institution abroad.
With the availability of online delivery, students can complete their studies, attain the credits and obtain a dual degree accredited by both domestic and foreign higher education institutions through a hybrid online and offline joint program.
Another higher education phenomenon is the transition from a diploma-based talent pipeline to a skill-based talent pipeline. In particular, COVID-19 has generated a sudden need for an unparalleled scale of mid-career retraining and upskilling. Joint initiatives and organizations may also play a key role in providing such services as micro-credentials to offer expertise and skills training to employers demand.
Tomorrow belongs to those who are braving the challenges and embracing the current opportunities. With more opening up and restructuring of the education sector, we might expect to see booming cooperative initiatives and institutions as well as a flurry of developments responding to the needs of students and upgrading their post-pandemic offerings.
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