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The impact of Covid-19 on Higher Ed in the UK

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Clearing has been gaining in popularity over the years and we have an inkling as to why. We also know that recruiting effectively during Clearing is increasingly integral to a university’s bottom line. We’re now going to look specifically at the impact and effect that we think Covid-19 will have on Higher Education in 2020 and beyond.

Prediction #1

There will be a stark reduction in international students coming to the UK in 2020 and lower and mid-tier universities' commercial viability is going to be strongly threatened as a result.

Russell Group and other universities considered more ‘prestigious’ will counter this drop in international students by ramping up their efforts to fill the spaces with more domestic students.

Prospective students that would otherwise have had to settle for a less desirable university, now have a slot opened up for them creating a sort of domino effect chain reaction. As each university loses students to a more prestigious university, they will seek to recruit those from a tier below themselves until the bottom of the chain is reached and universities have no students left to recruit despite losing a chunk of theirs to another institution.

It’s worth noting, however, that the government has recently put in place measures to try and combat this, putting in place a temporary cap on recruitment numbers meaning universities can recruit up to their forecast number of students plus 5% more. That additional 5% still may be enough to cause the chain reaction.

Prediction #2 

There will be a record percentage of students going through Clearing as they seek to exploit a favourable market position.

Firstly, UCAS have confirmed that Clearing will still take place in the summer.

Secondly, plans to grade students in lieu of exams being cancelled are still a little unclear and understandably complex. They say this year’s results will be based on teachers’ recommendations plus statistical moderation by examiners, who can change the grades up or down. This combination, they say, is likely to be fairer than the usual exam system.

Whether or not the system is better than the traditional system remains to be seen. But it would seem to have little bearing on the practicalities of Clearing in 2020. This is because the vast majority of students hoping to go to university in September will have already made their firm and insurance choices and will now be waiting for their final grades (albeit not via exam results) in order to see whether they’ve met, exceeded or fallen short of expectations.

But as universities seek to make up for losses in international recruitment it’s highly likely that plenty of courses at top universities are going to have spaces left. For those that do better than expected Clearing or Adjustment might have been the natural choice anyway, but for those that did as well as expected or maybe even worse may fancy their chances of finding a course at a better university knowing full well universities aren’t going to be beating students away.

Prediction #3 

2021 will see record numbers of applications and enrolments to UK universities.

Optimistically we believe there will be a rebound as confidence is restored globally and an unusually large number of students that deferred enrolment by taking gap years return to higher education. However, we think the legacy of Covid-19 will be permanent to a degree and will change the course of how universities do business forever. It’s essential that universities are equipped to connect and engage with students in a post-Covid-19 world.

What does your institution need to do to ensure it’s prepared to survive the threat of Covid-19 and thrive into the future?

Read our blog which explores How can Higher Education thrive post Covid-19?

Toby Margetts

Written by

Toby Margetts
‎Digital Strategy Lead – Squiz
2 June 2020

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