By Brian Hipkin, CEO & Founder at ReFRAME HE Consultancy Ltd.
First face to face teaching went, then libraries and now support services all moving as quickly as they can to online. But now the majority of students are having to quit their accommodation. Leaving behind them International Students who are receiving mixed messages, care leavers and estranged students.
It is going to be a mighty challenge for both academic and professional services to first locate, and then tailor, advice for a diverse student body scattered to the four winds by the impact of the Coronavirus.
Part time work
Whilst the Government struggles to implement systems of support for 90% of workers in the UK, the impact of the almost complete disappearance of the part time work that many students relied upon to survive has gone unreported.
The collapse of the Hospitality and Leisure industries, who employed students in their thousands mean a sudden and immediate drop in earnings and will cast a long shadow over part time employment into the future.
In Ireland they have set out a plan to support students who have lost part time work.
Living back at home
As many students move both home and online, they will be finding themselves sharing bandwidth with siblings being schooled online and parents working as best they can from home.
Many whose access to University computers and laptops will have disappeared will now be relying on their mobiles. It remains to be seen if their University online offerings are optimised for mobile.
There is so much uncertainty about the timeline around the pandemic, and also the responses to it. Nonetheless, preparation deadlines for the next academic year, across, the world are only months away.
So much is uncertain.
In the UK Universities would normally start at the end of September or early October with a few set up for January starts but not necessarily for all degrees. While signing up and committing to accommodation takes place in the preceding weeks as does arranging Student Loans, etc.
With seemingly so much of our Higher education and ancillary systems locked into a near simultaneous start at the end of September there is no room for manoeuvre beyond a few days.
It is not going to be clear for a while exactly how admissions are going to work nor the impact of the proposed September ‘appeals’ exam for those unhappy with their estimated grades. There is likely to be a mismatch between the Universities aspired to by those sitting A-levels in September and the number of Universities with degrees with January starts in subject they want to study. Creating a January start is a massive undertaking involving timetables, estate, validation. All things that in ‘normal’ days would eat up hours of face to face University committee time; something that is no longer available.
All of which could create a situation whereby students choose to defer for a year and will be joined in being absent by new and possibly returning International Students. The importance of managing money and budgeting even at home and in the likely absence of part time work for about a year, or eighteen months, has never been greater.