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Diku: how has COVID-19 affected internationalisation of HE in Norway?

The Norwegian Agency for International Cooperation and Quality Enhancement in Higher Education (Diku) – ACA’s Norwegian member organisation – has published a new report on how international education and research collaborations have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The purpose of the report is to inform about the impact of the pandemic on the collaboration projects in the agency’s programme portfolio, and about newstrategies and forms of collaboration that have emerged.

The report covers the following Diku programmes: UTFORSK, the Partnership Program with North America, the Eurasia Programme, the Cooperation Programme with Russia, NORPART and selected Key Actions under Erasmus+.

The pandemic has had severe ramifications for international education and research partnerships. More than half of the activities (55%) have come to a complete halt. Around one-third of the activities have gone ahead with various forms of adaptations, while only 12% were carried out as planned. It is first and foremost the physical mobility that has come to a complete standstill, among both students and staff. Erasmus+ projects, overall, have fared relatively better through the crisis than the partnership programmes. Around one-third of the activities have been adjusted or adapted to address the consequences of the pandemic. Many projects have used the opportunity to extend the project or reallocate funding to new purposes. 

The results also showed that it was easiest to make adaptations and develop new forms of cooperation in projects and partnerships that were already well-established when the crisis hit and where some of the activities were already under way. Changes and adaptations in activities largely concerned digitalisation. Activities that previously required travel and physical meetings were replaced by digital interaction and virtual arenas. Among otherthings, this concerned activities in connection with development work and thematic activities such as workshops, seminars, courses etc.

Although the pandemic has created major challenges for international educational collaborations, crises such as this one can also lay the foundations for transition and new ways of working together. On the one hand, the participants in the projects have undergone a ‘crash course’ in digitalisation, where the use and experience of various technical communication platforms have increased considerably. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that lessons learned from the pandemic will inspire new types of activities and models for alignment between internationalisation work and the educational institutions’ other activities.