Shaping the Way: How Education Providers Can Adapt to the ‘New Normal’ Post-COVID

Claudia Reiners
August 5, 2020

Shaping the Way: How Education Providers Can Adapt to the ‘New Normal’ Post-COVID

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

Australian education providers have faced massive challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, from the transition to online learning to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and rethinking models of education.

While there has been a lot of talk of the post-COVID future, there has been less focus on what education providers can do, and how setting a solid foundation will prepare education providers for what’s to come.

Through our own research and the analysis of expert findings, we have identified some of the ways the education sector in Australia is responding to COVID-19, and new measures education providers should consider implementing at their own institutions.

How Education Providers are Responding to the Coronavirus Pandemic

QS’s recent survey, ‘How Universities are Addressing the Coronavirus Crisis and Moving Forward’, provides some valuable insights into the measures education providers have already begun implementing.


of providers have moved some of their courses online


of providers have changed their application and acceptance deadlines for next year

Source: ‘How Universities are Addressing the Coronavirus Crisis and Moving Forward’

With Victoria commencing stage 4 restrictions, the harshest seen in the country to date, and NSW experiencing new clusters of coronavirus cases, it’s likely the virus will be part of our lives for some time to come. Recognising this, the Australian education sector is likely to see a continuation of blended learning for the remainder of the year.

Global travel restrictions and reduced mobility will also continue to have an impact on international student numbers, and therefore the profitability of the sector as a whole. In fact, 74% of providers expect international student enrolments to decrease over the next year, while 54% of prospective international students say their choice of country to study in will depend on the respective government’s handling of the crisis.

Considering the gradual increase of confirmed cases in some states, we can assume that the industry is unlikely to bounce back from the effects of the virus anytime soon. This is why it’s important for providers to put new measures into place now to ensure their successful emergence from the pandemic.

Steps Education Providers Can Take to Address the Impact of COVID-19

Education providers must respond proactively to the forecasted impact of the COVID-19 virus. Some measures to consider include:

1. Improving the provision of online education

With the sudden need to shift learning online, the initial implementation of online learning at many educational institutions was subpar.

Education providers should be looking at ways to improve the ongoing provision of online education, with 81% of students surveyed by Candlefox noting that online study was now a more desirable method of study. In fact, 50.3% of students said they preferred online study even prior to the pandemic, indicating an ongoing interest in the online delivery of education.

Action: Education providers must continue to offer learning flexibility, so that they can attract and retain students from around the globe, and cater to students who need to balance other commitments with study.

2. Diversifying the source countries for recruiting international students

According to modelling by the Mitchell Institute, the Australian economy is expected to take a $60 billion dollar hit over the next three years as the number of international students in the country drops.

Globally, 50% of education providers are already diversifying the source countries from which they recruit international students, so that they can reduce their reliance on just a handful of countries.

Action: Going forward, Australian education providers must consider what other countries students can be sourced from, or how they can better respond to the concerns of international students from key countries like China, Malaysia, Singapore and India. Measures such as this one will help to create a sustainable and future-proof long-term international education industry.

3. Allowing tuition fee discounts if teaching is conducted online at the outset of the academic year

Because learning is not able to be conducted on-campus, many students are expecting tuition fee discounts. With tuition fees covering on-campus facilities like sporting and recreational activities, employment and career advice, and food services, it simply doesn’t make sense to expect students to pay the full amount if they are not able to use any of the campus facilities.

20% of education providers surveyed by QS remarked that they were considering offering such discounts if the school year started on an online-only basis. Flinders University was a trailblazer in this regard, waiving the Student Services and Amenities Fee for all students and launching a $12.5 million support package.

Action: In addition to reconsidering tuition fees, education providers should consider flexible payment options in order to retain students experiencing financial difficulty.

4. Eventually reopening campuses when permitted by the government

While it is unlikely that campuses will reopen anytime soon throughout much of the country, it is important to keep the relevant safety precautions in mind for when the time comes. Due to the large number of shared spaces and the size of the student population, it is especially important that higher education providers stay on top of the relevant hygiene and safety measures when campuses reopen.

Action: Some implementation steps include the staggering class times, installing hand sanitiser stations, conducting social distancing measures and taking temperatures.

During this time, it is also important to instill confidence in students through the right messaging. As a driving force in education marketing, Candlefox offers products and services to education providers to empower your branding and messaging.

The COVID-19 crisis will continue to affect the way we live and learn for some time, which is why education providers must continue to share insights with one another and work to deliver education in the most effective and safe manner possible.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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