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How can universities adapt to the coronavirus pandemic? (Includes interview)

Education institutions are being driven to restructure every aspect of their operations, from student enrollment and refund policies to international recruitment and processing student visa applications.

Looking at the issue for Digital Journal is Sharon Butler, Executive Vice President of Global Education at Flywire, a payment solutions company that works alongside education institutions. Based on input from the university sector, Butler has set out recommendations that universities around the world can be considering in order to address several of the uncertainties.

The recommendations address issues like good practice planning, assisting with student affordability, payment securing, and obtaining international visas. The key themes to focus on include:

The Need for Clearly Defined Policies

Butler recommends drafting unambiguous policies that will provide students with the appropriate level of confidence required when it comes to enrolling in universities during 2021.. She states that institutions can develop further an online learning curriculum. This will include different e-learning options.

Other factors to consider include weighing up whether deferral options are appropriate (depending on what the coronavirus situation will be in 2021). It follows that an efficient refund mechanism may be necessary.

Student Affordability

Butler says it is important that payments plans are based on affordability and the disruption of COVID-19. This could make things more difficult for students to afford what was once more ‘affordable’ education. To assist, universities could propose simpler and easier to obtain flexible payment plans, such as zero interest schemes or plans with long pay-back periods.

Visa Requirements

International students are needed by many universities to help balance the cash flow (not least because higher fees can often be charged). For schools reliant upon international enrollment, the visa process represents one of the most challenging areas of uncertainty for administrators.

To help ease this process many students will require guidance on the how to obtain their visas and universities can get ahead by developing pre-prepared information and effective communication strategies.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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