Northern Ireland’s two universities; Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB) and Ulster University (UU) have both revealed they fear financial losses amid potential struggles to maintain international student numbers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is widely expected that international student numbers across the UK will be down on previous years and a QUB spokeswoman said the university currently expects a loss in revenue “in excess of £30m” for the forthcoming year. Queen’s currently has around 3,000 overseas students and a statement from the university assures that “contingency measures are being developed” in order to continue their “world-class” education.
The University of Ulster meanwhile expects to lose between £25m and £64m over the next three years.
Northern Ireland’s former Minister for Employment and Learning states that “the biggest threat comes from a significant drop in the number of international students,”. Some of these students may seek to defer their places until next year and domestic students may also follow suit until the “future landscape is clearer.”
While this may seem like a viable option, universities may not be in a position to accept mass deferrals as even in normal years it is not always possible, with highly competitive courses not wishing to block places for the next round of submissions. As a result, deferring students may be told to reapply.
Elsewhere the Open University, which specialises in online learning, is one academic institution that has experienced a boost amid the pandemic with daily visitors to the website jumping from 40,000 to 160,000 across the UK.
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