Sannam S4Keeping learning global in a world of closed borders

Keeping learning global in a world of closed borders

Universities can remain open through remote learning and international partnerships

With travel restrictions placed on Australia and New Zealand during the pandemic likely to continue into 2022, universities must seek new and innovative ways to support and recruit students from outside the region.

At a THE Live ANZ 2021 session, held in partnership with Sannam S4, experts from industry and academia met to discuss the tools universities have at their disposal to help them mitigate the challenges to come.

Opening the session, Marnie Watson, managing director for ANZ at Sannam S4, spoke of how the pandemic had sparked a shift in attitudes towards online and remote learning.

Currently, the UK and Canada have relatively open borders, for example, but “students are nonetheless still studying in an online, remote learning or a blended situation”, Watson noted.

Where international students are coming to the UK from a “red list” country, “increasingly, we’re seeing the universities paying for quarantine [imposed on students through red list travel restrictions], either through discounts on tuition fees or direct reimbursement to students”, said Watson.

The fact that Australia and New Zealand still impose strict travel bans should not stop universities in the region from remaining open to international students and partnerships – but this does come with financial challenges.

Figures from IDP Education research suggest that more than half of students are unwilling to pay standard international student fees if they take a programme online, the panel heard.

Sharing the experience of her own institution, Ainslie Moore, deputy director of international operations at the University of Auckland, said the pandemic had been “a story of acceleration rather than a pivot towards new types of recruiting and supporting international students”.

When the New Zealand government closed the border to China in early 2020, more than 2,000 Auckland students were unable to return to their campus. In response, the university established two “China learning centres” in China and continued leveraging the benefits of in-country staff supported by the experience of Sannam S4 in India.

The University of Auckland is now finalising online learning centres in other markets, where Moore says “Sannam S4 has both the in-market knowledge and the on-the-ground staff to support with this work”.

At the University of Sydney, meanwhile, the student experience has been bolstered with help from digital tools. Nishant Jadhav, senior regional manager at the university, explained how “psychology students, for example, are able to gather in a virtual lab where they can handle virtual spiders to learn about phobias”. An important part of the university’s success has been “understanding student concerns and how we can better support them…using insights from Sannam S4 sentiment surveys …and its on-the-ground team”, says Jadhav.

Students in both Australia and New Zealand have also benefited from taking professional work placements online this year, the panel heard. 

When asked to reflect on what might have been done differently during the pandemic, panellists agreed that acting quickly on a new strategy was key to ensuring minimum impact on the student experience. “We’ve always got to have innovation taking place, and [be] taking those brave steps as quickly as possible,” Watson concluded.

Watch the session on demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

Find out more about Sannam S4.

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