Research project on International Higher Education in Crisis: Covid-19 Impacts and Strategies

Globalisation’s challenges include a slowing of global trade caused partially by protectionist economic policies and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic severely restricted human mobility and cross-border trade. This research project assesses how the current crisis impacts and reworks existing economic geographies, taking the higher education sector as a critical example through which to understand broader restructurings.
International higher education is profoundly affected by these shifts, as international students are unable to travel to their overseas campus locations and university campuses in many countries have shifted to online teaching. During a high-phase of globalisation, many universities have set up international branch campuses and overseas partnerships to teach international students abroad. On the one hand, foreign campuses of universities are embedded in multiple flows and mobilities, including fly-in staff and international students, so that their business models may have come under serious challenge and might even be closed entirely, following budget costs of universities for non-core activities. On the other hand, commercial presences of higher education providers abroad could be envisioned as an ‘insurance policy’ for institutions that are able to upkeep teaching of international students in their home countries.
This research project investigates the shifting geographies of higher education following the pandemic through understanding how international student mobility and higher education provider mobility are shifting. It does so through a survey of internationalisation managers at home institutions and of branch campus managers in situ in host countries. The findings will provide insights assessing beyond short-term impacts to understand the changing strategies of transnationally operating universities.

More information on the research project (funded by the Regional Studies Association): https://www.regionalstudies.org/people/jana-kleibert/