Universities will never be the same after the coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis is forcing universities to confront long-standing challenges in higher education, such as skyrocketing tuition costs and perceptions of elitism — and some of the resulting changes could be permanent. Over the long term, universities might shift many classes online (a trend already under way), have fewer international students and even refashion themselves to be more relevant to local and national communities — both to solve pressing problems and to prove their worth at a time when experts and public institutions are coming under increased criticism. “The pandemic is speeding up changes in a tremendous way,” says Bert van der Zwaan, former rector of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and author of Higher Education in 2040: A Global Approach (2017)…

Some educators expect the pandemic will lead to more and better online teaching than before — in both wealthy countries and those with lower incomes. When universities in Pakistan closed in March, many instructors didn’t have the tools to teach online and many students lacked reliable Internet access at home, says Tariq Banuri, chairman of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission in Islamabad. But the commission has been working to standardize online teaching and to get telecommunication companies to offer students cheaper mobile-broadband packages…

All institutions are facing major financial problems, however. Wealthy private US universities, such as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, expect to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the next fiscal year. UK universities collectively face a shortfall of at least £2.5 billion (US$3 billion) in the next year because of projected drops in student enrolment, according to the UK consulting firm London Economics. And Australian universities could shed up to 21,000 full-time jobs this year, including 7,000 in research, a government report said in May.