Q: What are the implications of Covid-19 pandemic on admission to universities? Should we send our son overseas for higher education?

To travel or not is the question on every parent's and student’s mind. With a disruption unlike anything seen before, parents and students are faced with the dilemma whether they should travel overseas for higher education or choose alternative routes.

This is not an easy decision and is extremely personal and what might be right for you may not be suitable for another. Unlike the 2008 crisis, which was predominantly financial, this time around it is a health crisis with financial ramifications. Also, while decisions on admissions need to be made soon there is no clarity on the future of the virus making the entire process more fraught with uncertainty.

The financial implications of the present crisis will manifest itself in a shrinking global middle class (at least temporarily) and reduced disposable income. Universities have got accustomed to hefty fees brought in by international students and this source of revenue is suddenly, without any warning, under threat. They are in a bind and will need to be innovative. While the most competitive and top-tier universities will continue to be coveted by international students, others are more vulnerable. These institutions will now need to be more flexible and be willing to offer incentives to ensure continuity of international students. Deadlines will need to be extended and entry requirements amended. It is possible alternatives will be acceptable for SAT and IELTS examinations.

While waiting lists will tend to be longer, the probability of getting admission will be higher as more students will drop off for various reasons – financial, health or family. Students should not be averse to reapplying to universities which had not offered them admission earlier. With the hesitation to travel being paramount, regional and local universities will see an increase in enrollments at the expense of traditional Western universities. Virtual visits will replace campus tours reducing the risk of exposure and simultaneously saving on travel expense.

Students will become increasingly critical of employment opportunities and stay back options forcing universities to invest more in career services rather than in marketing budgets. Universities with fees which are affordable and offer employment opportunities will score over traditional institutions irrespective of their brand equity.

To retain the catchment of international students, universities will be more amiable in offering scholarships and need-based aid than ever before. To identify these universities, parents should do extensive research or talk to education consultants and leverage this crisis into an opportunity by either reducing the financial burden or moving up the totem pole. It may also be possible you defer your child’s admission from fall to spring intake.

The other casualty will be job opportunities for recent graduates. With unemployment being at record high and the existing workforce being either unemployed or underemployed, the possibility for new graduates finding a job tends to get diminished. This situation would funnel the graduates into further studies, a scenario witnessed in the last crisis. 

Sanjeev Verma is the managing director of Intelligent Partners, a leading education consultancy based in Dubai (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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