Over the past year, students across the world have had to overcome many challenges. Having adapted to home learning since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is one more hurdle for them to overcome.
Referring to the problem of college students earning grades that are higher than the norm in previous years, so-called "grade inflation" has seen 45 per cent of British A-Level students achieve A and A-plus grades. To some extent grade inflation is a long-standing trend and may represent all-round educational improvements. In the last two years however, it has become very acute, and is partly attributable to the different methods of assessment put in place during the pandemic.
As a result, students and universities have been presented with a unique challenge.
While some students have excelled and secured the requisite grades to take a place at their university of their choice, there will be those who have not achieved the results they were hoping for and this can be very tough on those students. Uncertain about the way forward with the grades they have in hand, they now need expert guidance on the options open to them.
The key message to students who are weighing their options during this stressful period, however, is to not panic. While over-subscribed universities present a challenge to students who will not be admitted to them, there are also opportunities to be seized as a result.
Rooted in these new circumstances, one key question has arisen: will potential students in Europe, the US, China and India – weary of difficult school or college experiences over the past 18 months – decide this is the time to seek higher education in countries such as the UAE?
The way in which the UAE has handled the pandemic will be a reassurance for many students looking to enrol for a university experience perhaps outside their home countries.
Another key question is, should higher education institutions encourage their current students to make the most of the recent opening-up of international travel? Yes, absolutely.
An international education experience is an invaluable experience for students and in many ways prepares young people for the future.
Universities around the world will do well to explore ways to encourage students to apply to their campuses and facilitate these life experiences. One initiative could be adding new study routes to exchange programmes between global campuses that already exist.
These kinds of moves could help enrich students' university experience across campuses globally and boost connectivity and collaboration between universities. One outcome of such enhanced networks between campuses in different countries could be the increased mobility for students – something that is likely to become more important following this year’s phenomenon of grade inflation.
Universities ranked among the world’s top 100 have a responsibility to support and guide students, in the UAE and beyond, regardless of whether they eventually study in these schools.
This is the time when institutions, acting in the best interests of aspiring students, will be mobilising their student recruitment teams to answer questions and support young people on their journey to higher education this September.
Top universities will provide impartial advice to students to help them find the college that best fits them, be it in the UK, UAE, or elsewhere in the world.
Students can be counselled that there are many opportunities in global campuses that might not be available to them in their home countries, but which offer the same study programmes and at least the same quality of teaching and living experience, if not vastly better ones. We are increasingly seeing international universities offering at least the same kind of curriculum students would expect in their home countries.
Every institution will naturally want to encourage students to join them, but these can be difficult and confusing times for students who are trying to make sense of a pandemic-affected educational landscape, while attempting to carve a path for their future. It has never been so important therefore, for universities to offer support – whether in the form of scholarships, informed, impartial guidance, or simply a friendly conversation – to encourage and nurture those considering what can be an enforced change in their higher education plans.
As parts of the world begin to emerge from the pandemic, schools ought to advise and support students across the UAE and beyond; helping them find the university that best suits them as they embark on the academic adventure of their lifetime.