Third-party funded project

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

Research Department: Dynamics of Economic Spaces

Project Leader within IRS: Dr. Jana Maria Kleibert

Funding Organization: Regional Studies Association (RSA)

Duration: 10/2020 - 06/2021

Globalisation’s challenges include a slowing of global trade ‘slowbalisation’, caused partially by protectionist economic policies (Economist, 2019) 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 (see Thiem, 2009).

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 largely shifted to online teaching. For some countries and regions, reliance on overseas students (particularly from China) is large and a loss of their tuition fees may bring higher education institutions to the brink of collapse. In the United Kingdom losses to the sector are estimated to amount to £2.7bn and 30,000 redundancies (McKie, 2020).
During a high-phase of globalisation, many universities have set up international branch campuses and overseas partnerships to teach international students abroad (Kosmützky, 2018). On the one hand, commercial presences of higher education providers abroad, regulated through the General Agreement on Trade in Services could be envisioned as an ‘insurance policy’ for institutions that are able to upkeep teaching of international students at the foreign offices, similar to their envisioned role through the Brexit (Kleibert, 2020).

On the other hand, foreign campuses of universities are embedded in multiple flows and mobilities, including fly-in staff and international students (Gunther & Raghuram, 2018), 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. 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 host countries. The impacts of universities are multi-scalar, including urban and regional effects (Benneworth, 2019; Goddard & Vallance, 2013; Meusburger et al., 2018).

It is clear, that universities are vital institutions for economic development, including through regional employment effects, effects on labour markets and spillover functions and globally-networked knowledge and innovation that are important for securing our post-pandemic futures. The findings will look beyond impacts at the strategies of transnational education managers. It will assess whether branch campuses are a suitable strategy to ameliorate global risks (for differently situated clusters of transnational higher education) and contributes to theorising (post-)globalisation.Globalisation’s challenges include a slowing of global trade ‘slowbalisation’, caused partially by protectionist economic policies (Economist, 2019) 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 (see Thiem, 2009).

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 largely shifted to online teaching. For some countries and regions, reliance on overseas students (particularly from China) is large and a loss of their tuition fees may bring higher education institutions to the brink of collapse. In the United Kingdom losses to the sector are estimated to amount to £2.7bn and 30,000 redundancies (McKie, 2020).

During a high-phase of globalisation, many universities have set up international branch campuses and overseas partnerships to teach international students abroad (Kosmützky, 2018). On the one hand, commercial presences of higher education providers abroad, regulated through the General Agreement on Trade in Services could be envisioned as an ‘insurance policy’ for institutions that are able to upkeep teaching of international students at the foreign offices, similar to their envisioned role through the Brexit (Kleibert, 2020).
On the other hand, foreign campuses of universities are embedded in multiple flows and mobilities, including fly-in staff and international students (Gunther & Raghuram, 2018), 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. 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 host countries. The impacts of universities are multi-scalar, including urban and regional effects (Benneworth, 2019; Goddard & Vallance, 2013; Meusburger et al., 2018).

It is clear, that universities are vital institutions for economic development, including through regional employment effects, effects on labour markets and spillover functions and globally-networked knowledge and innovation that are important for securing our post-pandemic futures. The findings will look beyond impacts at the strategies of transnational education managers. It will assess whether branch campuses are a suitable strategy to ameliorate global risks (for differently situated clusters of transnational higher education) and contributes to theorising (post-)globalisation.

News
February/28/2021
Interview with the IRS Junior Research Group Leaders Jana Kleibert and Monika Motylinska

The IRS currently hosts two junior research groups funded by prestigious programmes. Urban and economic geographer Jana Kleibert has been researching how higher education is marketed in international "branch campuses" with her Leibniz Junior Research Group "Constructing Transnational Spaces of Higher Education" (TRANSEDU) since 2018. Architectural historian Monika Motylinska and her junior research group "Conquering (with) Concrete", funded by the Volkswagen Foundation's Freigeist Programme, have been investigating what German construction companies contributed to the globalisation of architecture in the 20th century since the beginning of 2020. In the interview, the two researchers reflect on the current state of their research groups' work and explain how they are dealing with the challenges of the Corona pandemic. more info