There is no doubt that universities, business schools and other higher education institutions are finally placing sustainability higher on their agendas. And, just as encouragingly, if there was concern that the Covid-19 pandemic would cause people to lose sight of the urgency of climate change and the need for environmental action, that worry can be put to rest. More than ever, sustainability is at the front of people’s minds.
As professionals working in the field of addiction, we’re acutely aware that sufficient understanding and ongoing support with recovery is lacking in higher education settings.
As we begin to emerge out the other side of the pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that a large and growing demographic of adult learners − historically underserved by traditional higher education − was disproportionately affected.
While they strive to complete degrees and credentials while re-entering or navigating the workforce, many find that colleges and universities are ill-equipped to respond to their needs. This ongoing demographic shift comes as no surprise, so why has the sector been so painfully slow to react?
Student mobility and exchange programmes have become indispensable to higher education. For students, studying abroad lets them experience life outside their comfort zone. For universities, international students have become attractive sources of income, but they also bring cultural diversity to campus life. A multicultural environment undoubtedly helps enhance the overall educational and intellectual experience, nurturing mindsets and outlooks for a globalised world.
Most people spent the first 500 days of the coronavirus pandemic on activities rather different from those they’d originally intended. But with something approaching an end in sight (in the wealthy West, at least) thanks to vaccination programmes, we might expect people’s activities to become increasingly “normal”.
The time a student spends at university is often a transformative period of their life.
For most, it is the start of a journey that will lead them to expand their horizons, develop new skills and, hopefully, embark on their desired career. It is a period of self-learning, where students can equip themselves with soft skills that will enable them to thrive throughout life – professionally and personally.
When students return to campuses this autumn, universities effectively will be welcoming not one but two new cohorts. Many of last year’s freshmen have yet to set foot on campus, and none had the sort of “normal” first-year experience they expected.
As a result, schools will look for ways to provide something closer to their expectations. This includes figuring out how to resume in-person student engagement opportunities – experiences historically tied to persistence and retention – while supporting students with wellness and academic resources as we emerge from the pandemic.
Students want to know how we’re going to teach them in the new academic year. They expect us to be clear and transparent about it. But is that even possible, especially against the backdrop of hostile media coverage of the upheaval at universities?
How to help students navigate the plethora of resources at a university library – on the shelves, in journals and, increasingly, online – has been a special challenge for university library staff tasked with supporting those who cannot visit in person.