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COVID-19 has Impact on Higher Education

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 16 June 31 2020

September 2020

The International Association of Universities has conducted and published its IAU Global Survey Report on “The Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education Around the World”. This follows similar survey reports by the EAIE, IIE and the ESN.
The report shows that many universities had to stop on-campus education and switch to online provision, had to communicate this to students, and saw/expected an impact on enrolment of international but also domestic students.

IAU’s survey suffers from the same – may be inevitable – weaknesses as the other similar reports:

  • the representativeness of the sample (less than 5% response with a bias to Europe and Africa);
  • data that seem quantitative, but are based on counting qualitative estimates of respondents who may have quite different understandings of what they mean by ‘major disruption on campus’ or ‘communication infrastructure in place’?;
  • aiming for a moving target, as the pandemic was still in rapid – and regionally different stages of development during the survey;
  • a focus on educational process characteristics, as the whole sector is weakness measuring the impact of education on graduates over more extended periods of their life.

So all in all, surveys like these show more what people are thinking about the situation than offering data that can be compared or added up to one another.
Nevertheless, it is really good that these surveys are conducted, and it is even better than IAU will do a second and third survey in October 2020 and 2021. Let’s hope they will set these follow up survey up in such a way that the results can be compared over time. Just asking new questions about the new situation would bring less comparability to the results.

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