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The world after COVID-19

The World after COVID-19 is a series of ‘think pieces’ which ACA started publishing every Tuesday since early May . The pieces are authored by well-known experts in the field of international higher education. The basic question posed to them all is if and how the post-COVID-19 world will differ from the one we have until recently been used to. 

The last months have changed our lives in an unprecedented way. We have lived a slow life, a life short of direct human contact. Travelling has become a rare activity and, outside of one's own country, often impossible. Cities, usually awash with motored vehicles, have opened up into spaces for pedestrians and cyclists. Universities and schools switched to online teaching almost immediately. Pollution levels are dropping fast. I feel I live in a prison, but in a very comfortable one. That much for now. And 'now' can still last quite a while, mind you.

But what about the post-COVID-19 days? Will the past months look in hindsight like a bizarre intermezzo and will 'normalcy' reign again? Or will the corona experience whet our appetite for a 'new normal'. Might we even have learned some lessons and could we find smarter ways of living, working, learning and moving in the future? It is a worthwhile consideration for all sectors of life, but particularly for our own, international higher education.

A first glance suggests that higher education institutions leap-frogged into digitalisation. We do not yet know at which levels of quality and with which learning outcomes. But the ease of the switch to the virtual makes one wonder if online education will become the new default mode. Especially in the case of study abroad. Will physical mobility, of students and of faculty, become an outmoded form of study? Will we still fly in the thousands to the other end of the world to attend a conference that we might also attend in front of our computer screens? It would be cheaper, more environment-friendly and it would save us time. Will we still need offices at all? Has the virus not demonstrated that we can (almost) all work and even 'meet' from home. Tempting prospects: falling real estate prices, reduced traffic - especially at peak hours, a healthier environment.

It is to answer questions like those above and many others that ACA is starting a series of 'think pieces' devoted to the world after COVID-19. The 'think pieces' have been distributed through ACA's mailing list every Tuesday and are retrievable from ACA's Publication section now.