THE IMPACT AND THE OPPORTUNITIES OF COVID-19 ON HIGHER EDUCATION

Marguerite DennisINFORMATION FOR PRESIDENTS, VICE-CHANCELLORS, CHIEF FINANCIAL
OFFICERS, CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICERS, ENROLLMENT MANAGERS, DEANS OF
ADMISSION, REGISTRARS, FINANCIAL AID OFFICERS, CAREER COUNSELORS,
LIFELONG LEARNING COUNSELORS, ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL PROVIDERS,
AND EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANTS AND AGENTS

MARGUERITE J. DENNIS

BULLETIN # 28 OCTOBER 12-16, 2020

We are living through a dark time. Can we make the most of the moment?

COVID-19 and World Order, Hal Brands and Francis J. Gavin, Editors
For the past six months I have been researching and reporting on the implications
of COVID-19 on higher education. This week, I would like add to my regular
reports information from the book, COVID-19 and World Order, the product of a
two-day virtual forum hosted by the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies. The forum was held in June 2020 and included scholars,
thinkers, and leaders brought together to consider collectively the future of our
world after COVID-19.

Because the editors consider higher education integral to a reimagined, post
COVID-19 world, the findings and recommendations outlined in the book should
be of interest to all of you receiving these weekly bulletins. We cannot separate
higher education from the post-pandemic world.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
COVID-19 has accelerated economic inequality, rapid demographic changes,
populist resentment, ethnonationalism, and distrust of national and international

institutions. COVID-19 was so disruptive because it exploded in a world already
disordered, and that included higher education’s rigid systems of governance,
methods of instruction, and outdated business plans.
COVID-19 was a shock, but should not have been a surprise. SARS, Ebola and
MERS preceded this virus, epidemics that raced across borders for decades.
There will not be one point in time that marks the end of COVID-19. Rather, there
will be a gradual recession of danger that never fully goes away. The implications
for higher education are obvious. What will colleges and universities “look like”
and how will they be governed after a vaccine is found and distributed?
The question to ask is not when the pandemic will end but rather what will be the
residual disruption to our lives. There is no simple return to the way things were
in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Even after the virus is contained, the consequences will be with us for some time.
The implications for higher education institutions is obvious. It is delusional to
believe that once a virus is discovered and safely delivered, the college and
university experience will be the same as it was pre-pandemic.
The virus offers the opportunity to rethink and revitalize current international
systems of governance. Forum participants stressed that the pandemic is a
terrible thing to waste and the virus has created opportunities to fix broken
international systems and re-think deeply entrenched bureaucratic policies.
The implications for higher education are obvious. In a reimagined university
bureaucratic policies and administrative silos should be replaced with visionary
thinking and reliance on data in real time. In a reimagined university a school’s
relationship with a student should span a year before enrollment, four or three
years of enrollment, and a lifetime after enrollment.
History cannot predict our world after the pandemic but we can predict that in its
wake what remains will be different conceptions of normal.

INTERNATIONAL TRENDS

Expect countries, in addition to the United States, to impose stricter visa vetting
rules for Chinese students. Japan is the latest country to add stricter rules for
Chinese students and researchers.
Australian colleges and universities will receive a $1 billion research bailout to
help offset the collapse of international enrollments.
The governments of Australia and the Philippines have signed a MOU for research
collaboration particularly in science and innovation.
QS, the global think tank, published a report of a survey of 74,000 international
students taken in February 2020. The United States was the first choice of twenty
thousand potential international students, followed by Canada, UK, and Germany.
A later survey revealed that only 38% of international students were interested in
studying in the United States, based on the country’s response to the pandemic.

UNITED STATES ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
According to a report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research
Center, college and university enrollment for the fall semester revealed a
downward trend across the board. As of September 24 th ., undergraduate student
enrollment was down 4% from the previous year and graduate enrollment was
down 1.3%. The largest decrease, (16%), was in first-year student enrollment.
Community college enrollment dropped 9.4%, nearly nine times the loss rate
between 2018 and 2019.
While we do not have figures yet from the Institute for International Education on
international student enrollment in the United States for the fall 2020 semester, I
believe a large percentage of the decline can be attributed to fewer international
students.

Reimagined universities should be creating vision plans now for how they can or
will replace fewer international students’ enrollment in the future. There are
other cohorts of students who can replace fewer international students. There
are other ways of reaching an international student population that does not

want to study in the United States. There are higher education scenarios that can
and will reimagine a future with fewer boundaries than exist today.

FINAL NOTE
For colleagues interested in a deeper dive into the findings and recommendations
of the Johns Hopkins forum on COVID-19, I recommend the book, Covid-19 and
World Order, The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation, edited by Hal
Brands and Francis J. Gavin and published by the Johns Hopkins University Press,
Baltimore, 2020.