Adapt or die — How HE is adapting to COVID? (International students context)

Survival of the fittest applies to all, it’s been proven right again in the unforeseen COVID situation.

Pre-COVID every industry changed, evolved and adapted in some manner in its own pace, but the higher education industry is known for educating and leading in technology and innovation was somehow not proactive to adapt to modern business processes and models in many cases.

Not any more! If not by choice, by force higher education is changing the way it functioned pre-COVID. And I think it’s good news, in fact, an awesome one. It is the time for a makeover, to get rid of unscalable processes and methods, question the status quo, look out for efficiency, automation, think like 2020!

Higher education’s international student arm is widely affected in the current scenario. Lockdowns, travel bans and uncertainty of this global crisis has made it difficult for universities, students and parents to plan. But as expected many universities are making their way and many still planning.

Obvious. It wouldn’t be wrong to say, it is obvious that if an education provider hasn’t started to plan to start virtual learning, then they may be heading south. In our recent survey, 98% of the responding universities/colleges have started online courses for existing students and plan to continue the next admissions cycle with the same.

Learn while you wait. Many universities are considering implementing blended learning programmes for international students, in order to start the course while they wait for the COVID-19 situation to ease off. As there are many unanswered questions and uncertainty right now, the best option for a student is to start their course of choice online and gain some academic credits and save costs. Few Universities in the UK and Europe are offering heavy discounts on the online part of the blend to maintain the engagement and enrolment. Platforms like Zoom Abroad ( are providing online courses search capability to help students and universities.

Blended delivery may not be a good fit for all programmes and education providers like language schools and foundation providers basis visa technicalities.

Push the dates. We noticed many UK universities are quite optimistic about international students starting to travel this September intake and many are considering pushing the course start date to Oct/Nov 2020. Whereas many US and European universities (where the COVID impact was severe) don’t see international students travelling anytime before Jan/Feb 2021 or even Sep/ Oct 2021.

Language tests. Widely accepted and required English proficiency tests like IELTS and TOEFL are not available in many countries and thus universities are looking out for alternative testing methods which could be done online. Proficiency in English is a prerequisite for international students, and luckily there are other efficient methods which universities are exploring currently. Duolingo and Password test have been popular. We would probably see a rise in the university’s own assessment methods or off-the-shelf tools like Zilter ( via video interviews combined with online written tests within the application to save time and cost both for students and universities.

There will be more challenges and hurdles we may see as the situation evolves, all departments with HE sectors will function differently but we hope HE will notice more opportunities and be more open to proactively adapt to modern, scalable and efficient ways of business.

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