We’re All in This Together

We’re All in This Together


By: Sherrie Huan
Senior Regional Manager (China/North Asia), The University of Sydney

When reflecting upon the two Coronavirus Member Forum Webinars run on the 18th February, I couldn’t help thinking of this scene in “High School Musical.”

The Webinar sessions were extended to NACAC membership too. There were 278 attendees in both sessions combined, with 44% from secondary schools; and 39 % from universities. Geographically, members were located in East Asia & Pacific (51.4%), United States & Canada (34.2%), Europe (7.2%), South & Central Asia (6.5%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (.07%).

University representatives from the US, Canada, UK, and Australia gave updates on their responses and actions taken to address the challenges posed by the Coronavirus outbreak.

For Northern Hemisphere institutions, the travel restrictions, the closure of schools, the cancellation of internationally standardised tests like TOEFL and IELTS in China have prompted solutions like extending deadlines or providing application documentation alternatives for the next intake, which is September 2020.

However, for Southern Hemisphere institutions like those in Australia, we are living through it right now. Our Semester 1, 2020 started on 24 February, yet the government travel ban is still in place until 7 March (to be reviewed) at the time of writing. This means many students are unable to arrive on campus to resume their study. Resources, procedures and alternatives have been provided by universities to students in every way possible, from online delivery, to flexible time frame, to financial support, to free deferral or suspension… All efforts are in place to mitigate risk, to minimise disruption, to ease their stress and to help them going through this difficult time.

All universities have cancelled recruitment staff travels to North East Asian countries until further notice. As the Coronavirus goes global, perhaps more travel restrictions will be posed to other regions and countries, ie. Italy, Iran. We as recruiters will have to implement more creative ways to reach out to schools and students to sustain our market presence.

It was an extremely positive and warm feeling to have attended the Webinar, be part of the panel and listened to industry colleagues share best practices and share solutions. However, after the Webinar, I seem to have come up with more questions:

  • What new capacity should we start building now in order to respond to situations like this in the future?
  • The outbreak of Coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, hence the attachment of its racial element. A new wave of racial prejudice is rising in society. How can we build this into our educational programs?
  • Viruses do not discriminate, yet humans seem to do. What can universities do to address xenophobia at the same time as they address international public health issues?
  • How can we advocate and reach out to industry stakeholders to join forces and help students: accommodation providers, digital platform businesses, exam bodies, government agencies, health authorities, insurance companies, immigration offices, media channels… Have they heard our voices?

I do not have answers yet and will continue to think about answers. But one thing is clear and will continue to be clear: We’re All in This Together.

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