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How Educational Institutions are Being Affected by COVID-19 in the UK

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The COVID-19 pandemic has not only resulted in the demise of 29,427 people, but it has landed several UK universities in trouble. The picture is precisely the same across the whole world. By April 15th, almost 1.725 billion learners had been affected by the closure of the school and higher education institutions, worldwide.   

If the reports are to be believed, then the huge list of suspended colleges in the UK will be detrimental for the country’s economy. Most universities are yet to comply with the full-scale transition to e-learning, as the pandemic has ruled out any chances of social proximity. So, let us delve right into the current scenario.

Economic Impact

COVID-19 has brought about an abrupt halt in the production of goods and services in the manufacturing industries. But, these sectors are not only ones incurring losses. In fact, UK universities are looking at a loss of millions of pounds.  International students from Asia, Africa, and the USA had to cancel their enrolments owing to the global pandemic.

Now, the UK universities are in trouble, as conditions have exacerbated in the past one month. Unions like UNISON, University and College Union (UCU), GMB, Unite and the Educational Institute of Scotland have issued a warning to the governments that the universities must be financially supported.

International students pay an amount of £9,000 (undergraduate programs) annually to £58,600 (medical degrees). Evidently, International students pay thrice the course fee applicable to the EU and UK students.  Thus, the education sector is one of the main sources of income for the UK, and it has been unstable since the SARS-COV-2 virus has been cut loose.

Cancellation of Tests

Due to the mass outbreak of the COVID-19, the UK has gone into Coronavirus lockdown. As a result, SATs tests and public exams were cancelled. In addition to this, GCSE, AS- and A- level exams were also called off.

As per the director of Universities UK International (UUK), Vivienne Stern, organizations are working in conjunction with the British Council, to administer the testing in China. Moreover, they will also look into the English language tuition in other affected countries such as Vietnam, South Korea, etc.  

As per the latest update, IELTS candidates are required to stick to the guidelines laid out by the British Council. Stipulations have also been specified in case a student wants a refund by cancelling the IELTS exam. Furthermore, students have been advised to keep an eye out for any deferment notice in case the situation worsens.  

Online Education

The present black swan episode is having a negative impact on the mental and physical health of the students.  Thus, the need of the hour is the formulation of a new educational paradigm that will benefit the students, and will not hinder their academic growth. Currently, face-to-face teaching has been abandoned in UK universities, and the courses are being shifted online.

Teachers are conducting classes on Skype, Moodle, and Google Classroom. Moreover, they are holding doubt-clearing sessions on online forums and Facebook education groups. In addition to this, emails are being forwarded to the students bearing information regarding modified course structure and assignments.

As far as the success of e-learning is concerned, concerned authorities are getting mixed response and results. The UK has a retention problem when it comes to online education. Students have higher chances of dropping out, due to the fact that most of them have to handle other responsibilities. Most importantly, overcoming scepticism will be a crucial step going forward. If the country doesn’t want to lag behind than the rest of the world, universities should introduce e-learning on a wider scale.

List of Suspended Colleges in the UK

As per the statistics, a huge number of International students make up for the total class strength in UK universities. In the 2018-19 period, 120,385 Chinese students applied for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the UK. However, social distancing has resulted in the temporary shutdown of the universities. As a result, the ‘conventional education process’ of both the local and the global students is disrupted.  

As per the compilations of the UK based website Wonkhe, universities like the University of Sheffield, University College London, Durham have partially or fully suspended teaching. And, the list of suspended colleges in the UK increased following Easter.  And, now more than 60 universities have switched to online teaching. This includes alma maters like The University of Manchester, The University of Liverpool, The University of Birmingham and more.

However, certain universities are forced to remain open, even if the classes have ceased. There are close to 4,500 students living on the campus of the University of the West of England. The scenario is similar in other universities in the elite Russell Group, Oxford University, etc. Thus, the institutions can’t be shut down completely.

As you can see, the status quo of the education system in the UK is pretty grim, from a financial standpoint. Thus, the government and all the heads of the universities need to make a decision to continue the academic curriculum, abiding by social distancing protocols.  And, online education has to be enforced and regulated following certain standards. If only these steps are carried out, the education system will continue in the UK amid this tough situation.

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Mark Hales

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