The Pandemic Pivot: International Programming at Yale-NUS College During COVID-19 and Beyond

By now, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every aspect of our lives, and international education is certainly no exception. Since its founding, Yale-NUS College has prioritized global engagement, building an internationally-focused curriculum, highly diverse student body, and placing a significant emphasis on international opportunities for students. We are now forced to rethink much of our work, and reconsider how to support student learning during this era of limited to no international travel. We have welcomed Singaporean “exchange” students from our partner institutions abroad, reconfigured experiential programming that used to take place abroad for the Singapore context, and shifted more of our partnership development efforts to Asia Pacific. We have also worked with students to help them secure meaningful learning opportunities locally, deepening our connections to the community here in Singapore. While we look forward to more global student mobility when it is once again feasible, we’re also seeing that we may want to make some of these changes permanent. In this session, I hope to explore some of the potential silver linings of Yale-NUS College’s “pandemic pivot.”

Lindsay Allen is the inaugural head of exchange and study abroad at Yale-NUS College, Singapore’s first liberal arts college founded in 2011 through a partnership between Yale University and the National University of Singapore. She holds a BA in Asian Studies from the University of Michigan, an MA in Translation from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and is pursuing a second MA in International Education from SIT Graduate Institute. She has presented at global conferences including APAIE, EAIE, and NAFSA on topics including large-scale global partnerships, connections between study abroad and careers, and faculty engagement in study abroad.

Internationalisation at Home and Pedagogical Challenges: Intercultural Education

Having been defined by scholars in a number of ways, the concepts of Internationalization at Home (IaH) of higher education institutions have been widely advocated by foreign language educators to provide meaningful and relevant learning environments for learners within domestic contexts. This presentation aims at discussing how internationalization of curriculum can be enhanced by intercultural language teaching and learning. It will investigate cases of Thai as a foreign language at the National University of Singapore (NUS), discussing an integration of intercultural education into IaH, as well as reflecting on pedagogical considerations and challenges. Further, the paper will significantly highlight the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on pedagogical implications and opportunities.   

Sasiwimol Klayklueng is a senior lecturer and convenor of the Thai language programme at the Centre for Language Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS), where she has been coordinating and teaching Thai as a foreign language to learners of different levels of proficiency for almost 20 years. She received her M.A. in English Studies and Applied Linguistics from the NUS and the University of Melbourne, respectively. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in foreign language education with the University of Western Australia. Her research interests include foreign language education, intercultural education, technology-enhanced language learning and teaching materials development.

Post-COVID Student Recruitment Market: A view from the UK as a destination for International Students

While much is said to be uncertain in terms of the long-term impact of COVID-19 to the global movement of students in higher education, the short-term impact is slowly unfolding in the UK international HE sector. This presentation will reflect on the immediate impact of the pandemic to UK institutions – with a particular focus on international student recruitment – and the experience of the University of Bristol in managing outcomes. Firstly I will outline the immediate impact of local lockdowns in the student conversion journey – from application, to meeting conditions of offers, to student enrolments. Here I highlight (1) that the popularity of the UK as a destination and the popularity of international HE among students have had a variable impact across subject areas as seen in recent surveys and in actual application volumes; (2) that the conversion of applicants into meeting the conditions of offer has been a challenge sector-wide with some significant country markets changing the ways in which grades are achieved; (3) and that there is an expected downturn of enrolled students due to ongoing travel restrictions and general perceptions of the UK government’s response to the pandemic – perhaps this is nuanced across different types of HE institutions in the UK (for example for Russell Group institutions or else high-ranking institutions). Secondly, I will reflect on the specific response of Bristol to manage the impact of the pandemic as it unfolded across the recruitment cycle. Here I highlight the institution’s (1) proactive contingency planning and work done to predict the impact to student numbers; (2) immediate move towards online recruitment and closer engagement with third party service providers (student recruitment agencies, private pathway providers, and student marketing companies); (3) and recalibration of traditional student registration and onboarding process. As a final note, I reflect on the short-term outcomes of these responses and how we are measuring success.

Ralph Buiser has over 7 years of experience in the international student recruitment sector in the UK. Currently he is the International Market Insight Manager at the University of Bristol with a remit over international student recruitment business intelligence and new programme development. Previous to this, he was an Analyst at IDP Education, an Australia-based international student recruitment agency, with a remit over UK and US-bound student mobility monitoring and business development support. He is currently a PhD candidate at Cardiff University towards a PhD in Sociology.

Turning Risks to Opportunities: Lingnan University’s Efforts in Enhancing Students’ International Experiences amid the Pandemic

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lingnan University, as a liberal arts university in Hong Kong, has taken various efforts in research, education, and community service to fight this global health crisis. The pandemic has particularly brought about significant international learning challenges due to travel bans, visa restrictions, and campus lockdowns. To enhance students’ international learning experiences amid the pandemic, Lingnan University has fully applied its institutional connections worldwide, and the information and communication technologies (ICTs) to keep its endeavors in turning the challenging situation into opportunities for enriching students’ learning experiences. This presentation will first demonstrate Lingnan University’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through research, education, and community service. The presenter will then focus on introducing Lingnan’s efforts in enhancing students’ international learning experiences through institutional collaboration and technologies and discuss the takeaways on international higher education during the pandemic derived from Lingnan’s efforts.

Weiyan Xiong is a Research Assistant Professor at Lingnan University, Hong Kong. He is also serving as the Program Director of the Master of Arts in International Higher Education and Management (IHEM). His research interests include comparative and international education, indigenous education, liberal arts education, sustainability and higher education, and faculty professional development. He received his PhD in Higher Education Management from the University of Pittsburgh. He used to work as a Program Coordinator of the Institute for International Studies in Education at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Visiting Student Researcher at Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues of UC Berkeley. His new book, Ethnic Minority-Serving Institutions: Higher Education Case Studies from the United States and China, will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in November 2020.

Building an Online Learning Community: Reflections on the Challenges and Possible Approaches

The sudden disruption caused by Covid-19 has posed great challenges to everyday teaching in higher education. During Spring 2020, the author modified two project-based undergraduate courses when delivering online teaching to students with diverse cultural backgrounds located in different parts of the world. The courses the author taught have a high level of active learning component and are designed to promote peer collaboration and self-regulated learning. In this presentation, the author will reflect on the difficulty of building an online learning community by reflecting on her own teaching practices with supported evidence from students’ reflective journals. The author will put forward the tentative argument that when migrating this type of courses online, more efforts need to be made at the beginning of the course to establish a stronger bond within the learning community. The author will discuss how she designed warm-up exercises as examples of her attempts to achieve this goal. Anecdotal experiences regarding her current mix-mode teaching will also be mentioned.

Yanyue Yuan is Assistant Arts Professor at the Division of Arts and Sciences, New York University – Shanghai, where she co-runs the Creative Experience Design Lab at the Program on Creativity and Innovation (PCI). She holds a PhD in Education from the University of Cambridge and a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford. Prior to joining NYU Shanghai, she worked as Rutherford Curatorial Researcher at the London Science Museum and taught in ShanghaiTech University as Adjunct Assistant Professor. She has published more than fifteen journal papers and book chapters and has rich experience in exploratory and inquiry-based teaching. Yanyue’s research areas include: art education, creative learning experience in formal and informal contexts, project-based learning, and cultural and creative industries.

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on International Higher Education and Student Mobility: Student Perspectives from Mainland China and Hong Kong

Authors: Weiyan Xiong (Lingnan University), Ka Ho Mok (Lingnan University), Guoguo Ke (Lingnan University), and Joyce Oi Wun Cheung (University of Sydney)

Cite as: Xiong, W., Mok, K. H., Ke, G. & Cheung, J. O. W. (2020) Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on International Higher Education and Student Mobility: Student Perspectives from Mainland China and Hong Kong. Centre for Global Higher Education Working Papers, No. 54. Oxford, UK: University of Oxford.

Paper link:

Summary | The unprecedented health crisis with the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world has dramatically impacted the future of international higher education, especially student mobility. The pandemic raises the travel restriction and campus closures, which lead to the shift of face-to-face teaching to online teaching and learning and the cancellation of physical events and activities. Also, many students canceled or changed their study abroad plans due to safety considerations, travel bans, and visa restrictions.   In this study, we examined the Mainland China and Hong Kong students’ studying abroad expectations after the COVID-19 pandemic, as student mobility is a significant component to explore the adverse impact of COVID-19 on international education.

We applied the survey to investigate Mainland China and Hong Kong students’ attitudes to studying abroad in the COVID-19 pandemic to see if they were still interested in studying abroad after the pandemic and their preferred destinations. Among all 2,739 valid responses, we found that 2,312 (84 percent) university student respondents expressed no interest in studying abroad after the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 427 (16 percent) would consider pursuing further education overseas. Comparing the pre-COVID-19 increasing studying abroad trends with our study findings, we believe that COVID-19 indeed impacts the study abroad preferences of students who are undertaking their degrees in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Moreover, the majority of our respondents are 18 to 25-year-old first degree seekers. Given the research findings, we argue that bachelor’s degree graduates in Mainland and Hong Kong will be more willing to stay to compete for jobs and advanced level degrees, resulting in more fierce competition for job and study vacancies.

For those respondents who will still pursue further degrees abroad, our survey found that Asian regions and countries, especially Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan, are listed in the top five, in addition to the US and the UK. In other words, East Asian countries and regions would recruit more students and facing more opportunities in the increasingly competitive higher education sector for international students. We also believe the reason behind is that East Asian countries with a better situation and pandemic control. Also, the proximity serves as another reason because students may want to stay in neighboring regions, where they can still entertain international exposure and easily retreat to the homeland when necessary.

Furthermore, we argue the current global health crisis would intensify social and economic inequalities across different higher education systems when some countries fail to maintain the scale of international learning because of different paces of economic recovery in the COVID-19 era. For countries that perform well in health crisis management and manage their economic growth, during and right after the COVID-19 pandemic, may rebound and continue to support international learning. For traditional strong countries, like the US and the UK, will still retain their attractiveness due to the reputation of their higher education sectors.

Contribution | The empirical evidence in this study can contribute to the studies on the macro-level issues in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and international higher education, such as international student recruitment policies, institutional management, and international collaboration. First, this paper presented useful policy insights for higher education institutions across different parts of the world, particularly those heavily relying upon fees generated from international student bodies. Since health and safety become the primary concerns influencing international students’ study plans, we suggest both government and institutions should reflect on the critical issues of the preventive measurement under the context of discrimination and cultural differences, such as the acceptance of “wearing face masks.”

Second, a thriving world city depends on attracting and retaining world talents. As rising destinations for Mainland China and Hong Kong students, this paper draws valuable policy insights for East Asian countries and regions to develop appropriate strategies to attract students. Finally, our research emphasized the importance of collaboration in international higher education during the pandemic. Given the negative impacts on international higher education from the anti-globalization trend and the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers, institutional administrators, and educators should acknowledge that collaborations are in great need, individual institutions and countries cannot deal with this situation singlehandedly.

Covid-19 and the Race for International Students: Mobilities and Migrations in a Post-Pandemic World

This paper offers reflections on the importance of international student mobilities and the migration industries that have emerged as a result, whilst also considering how the global pandemic may change these narratives. Given the rampant neoliberalisation of the higher education system in the UK, for many universities, a healthy international student recruitment is essential for their survival. This is evidenced by the myriad of efforts (requiring significant financial outlays) that universities go to in order to keep their numbers buoyant and which this paper introduces. Yet, many of these have relied on mobilities to enable marketing and engagement opportunities, and at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic there were concerns that the course of the pandemic in the UK and the immobilities it created would have untold impacts upon this. The paper will consider the actions taken by some universities to mitigate against this, as well as questioning how the pandemic impacts upon the sustainability of the higher education system both in the UK and beyond.

Dr Suzanne Beech is Lecturer in Human Geography at Ulster University. A specialist in international higher education her work has analysed all aspects of the international student experience from recruitment, and the associated migration industries they encounter, right through to their reflections on study overseas. Suzanne’s work has been published widely in journals such as Social and Cultural GeographyGeoforumThe Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and Area. Her monograph, The Geographies of International Student Mobility: Spaces, Places and Decision making, was published with Palgrave MacMillan in 2019.

Testing elite transnational education pathways and contesting orders of worth in the face of a pandemic

This paper considers the COVID-19 pandemic as a test that has disrupted the flow of a particular type of social and physical mobility. It takes pathways embarked by students from Asian countries to “prestigious” Anglophone universities as its focal point of analysis, considering how the rituals and symbolism around attending elite institutions are evolving while universities go virtual or as students are prevented from traveling to their university’s country destination. Building theoretically on the sociology of critical capacity and sociology of testing, I analyse institutional responses — at the peak of the outbreak — from four elite universities in the US and the UK that have hosted large numbers of Asian students in past decades. The paper focuses on how these universities responded to international students under conditions of incredible uncertainty, examining how they justify their role, purpose and operations, while canvassing for continued support from this student segment. The findings highlight contesting orders of worth between states and institutions, as clashes between market, civic and domestic regimes exert significant pressures on organisational efforts to coordinate and cope during this critical moment, thereby raising questions about how prevailing logics of elite transnational education are being altered in the face of a pandemic.

Rebecca Ye is a sociologist of education and work. Her research takes place at the intersection of education and labour markets, and pays special attention to vocations, trajectories and temporality. In recent years, her research projects have examined elite institutions, higher vocational education, and transnational education strategies. Rebecca is presently Assistant Professor at the Department of Education, Stockholm University, where she teaches on the International and Comparative Education Masters programme and supervises postgraduate students in their thesis work. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Social Sciences, and serves on the editorial and advisory boards of the International Studies in Sociology of Education and the Forum for Asian Studies (Stockholm University).

Border Experiments and New Topologies of Control: Managing international student mobilities during and after Covid-19

In the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic, higher education and international student mobilities (ISM) are facing unprecedented disruption – university campuses are operating remotely, travel is restricted or suspended and international students are faced with completing degrees without in-person contact. States and institutions are tentatively considering proposals to rapidly reboot ISM including the demarcation and establishment of travel ‘bubbles’ or ‘corridors’, safe country lists, university participation in screening and quarantining, and new technologies for tracking and tracing potential outbreaks. These potential experiments in managing ISM promise to make mobility possible while containing the biomedical risks of virus transmission. They also reconstitute border topologies in a way that both reveals existing biopolitical dimensions of migration and ISM as well as establishing new terrains for intervention, experimentation and coordination. In this presentation, I reflect on the reconfiguration of borders in actual and potential responses to Covid-19, drawing particularly but not exclusively on the context of New Zealand, a small Anglophone settler colony where international education has been a significant source of both institutional income and broader economic activity. I pay particular attention to considering two questions: what kind of biopolitical subjects are generated in niche border regimes to get international students back sooner? and, What are the emergent regional and geopolitical alignments imagined in new border topologies?

Francis L. Collins is Professor of Geography and Director of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at the University of Waikato. His research centres on international migration and includes projects exploring international students and urban transformation, higher education and the globalisation of cities, labour migration, marginalisation and exploitation, time and youth migration, and aspirations and desires. Francis is the author of Global Asian City: migration, desire and the politics of encounter in 21st century Seoul (Wiley 2018) and co-editor of Intersections of Inequality, Migration and Diversification (Palgrave 2020) and Aspiration, Desire and the Drivers of Migration (Routledge 2020).

Internationalisation and Student Mobility During the Pandemic: Lessons to Share

Internationalisation, through the means of student mobility programmes, has always played an important role in higher education, acting as an important tool in the broadening of students’ horizons and exposing them to different experiences away from the comfort of their homes. COVID-19 has all but brought the entire world to a standstill and led to an indefinite suspension of these programmes. Yet internationalisation remains an area that universities cannot do without, students must be familiar with the world beyond their borders in order to survive and thrive after graduation. This session will explore the pandemic’s impact on student mobility programmes, reflect on the effectiveness of our responses and outline how NUS has adapted its internationalisation efforts to the ‘new normal’.

A/P Chin Wee Shong assumed duty as the Academic Director of the NUS Global Relations Office (GRO) since 2019. Among her various responsibilities at GRO, she provides strategic directions for partnership and student mobility specifically for the Asia-Australasia, China-Hong Kong-Taiwan and Japan-Korea-South Asia regions. She fronted several new initiatives at GRO, e.g. the Global Classroom Model (GCM) was initiated to encourage the inclusion of an overseas experiential learning component in teaching modules; the “SEA Experience Award” and “India Experience Award” were established to encourage students to consider a learning experience in these regions. A/P Chin was once the Assistant Dean and Vice Dean of NUS Faculty of Science (2006-2013). She was presented the NUS Quality Service Award in 2005, and was a recipient of the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award for academic year 2007/08 and 2006/07. She was honoured with the Long Service Medal at Singapore National Day Awards 2019.