COVID-19 has not only impacted businesses but also caused distress among students especially those who wanted to study abroad. With the pandemic refusing to abate, there is no certainty on the student intake from foreign lands. Though the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine has brought some positive news for students as they see the possibility of their dreams about studying abroad coming true in the next season.
But despite the global pandemic, international education has proved to be surprisingly resilient to the challenges of COVID-19. While a significant number of students did not give up on their dreams to study abroad, Ireland with a careful and cautious approach to COVID-19 has shown how Irish institutions are ensuring the highest standards of education to sustain the aspirations of international students. Though it is still a while before students can undertake international travel.
Speaking about the 2021-2022 academic year, which begins from September, Barry O’Driscoll, Regional Manager, India & South Asia for Education in Ireland, said, "Looking ahead to the 2021/2022 academic year, which begins this coming September, it is likely that university-level students will be back on campus. By this time Ireland’s national vaccination programme should be complete, meaning Ireland should be in a different place with regard to COVID-19, compared to where things stand now, in Spring 2021. The return to a campus experience will most likely be done in a phased basis with various student groups. It is likely that some remote teaching will remain in place for larger student groups. So effectively a hybrid model will be in place," he added.
Amid pandemic, foreign students are facing a hard time staying outside of their home country. Explaining what Ireland is doing to make life easier for foreign students amid the pandemic, O’Driscoll said, “It has been confirmed that international students who were eligible to apply for the two-year stay back visa but, due to COVID-19, remained in their own country to study online during the current academic year – will be deemed eligible to apply for the Third Level Graduate Permission scheme. When students are returning to Ireland for essential academic purposes, or to avail of the Third Level Graduate Permission scheme they must comply with all current public health requirements related to COVID-19."
The pandemic has led to a sea change in the education system world over. Talking about what changes he expects in the education system, O’Driscoll said, "Education delivery worldwide has had to manage significant challenges, at all levels, in the past year. The technologies that permit a remote delivery of teaching had been developed over the past decade so when the impacts of the pandemic hit, most institutions were able to transition very effectively, albeit unexpectedly, to a remote or hybrid delivery model. As the pandemic lingers, before vaccination programmes are fully rolled out, the re-transition of teaching and learning back to campuses will likely be slow and on a step-by-step basis. Indeed several aspects of teaching delivery will remain in the long term."
Explaining about how Ireland is updating its education system amid pandemic, Barry O’Driscoll, said, "When the risks of the pandemic became evident in Ireland, almost a year ago now, the Irish higher education institutions transitioned very rapidly to a remote delivery model, where lectures and tutorial were delivered online rather than in the classroom. Essential laboratory work or practical sessions remained on campus, with additional safety measures. It is clear that students, and indeed teachers and lecturers have missed the campus experience and personal interactions in the last year. However, feedback from students in Ireland, both domestic and international, when it comes to the quality of the teaching and learning has been very positive. Group work, class presentations and discussions have all remained integral to students’ learning across disciplines. Ireland’s higher education institutions are proud of the close links they have with industry and the practical nature of programmes, across science, engineering, computing and business."
O’Driscoll also said that Ireland has a higher ‘employability rate’ post-graduation. While talking about what makes Ireland’s education system different compared to other countries like the UK, the USA, Australia, etc., he said, "International students who look to the ‘employability rate’ post-graduation will find that Ireland is a leader compared to other countries. Ireland’s high education institutions are closely liked with industry and courses, both at undergraduate and postgraduate level are highly practical and applied to the real world. Ireland is home to over 1,000 multinational companies in a number of sectors such as ICT, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and financial services. A big part of the reason for these industry players choosing Ireland as the location is the quality of the graduates that Ireland’s higher education institutions produce."
Meanwhile, in order to encourage more students to take education in Ireland, the government of Ireland has announced undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships worth 1,500,000 Euros for Indian students. "There are a number of different scholarships provided in Ireland. The higher educational institutions themselves are providing a variety of scholarships that are merit-based. Education in Ireland as a national brand gave away 10 scholarships worth €3,000 each to students in a Virtual Showcase to assist in fee reduction. The ‘Government of Ireland International Education Scholarships 2021’s initiative every year offers 60 scholarships to be given for a year of study at Bachelor or Masters level to eligible international candidates who are offer holders of Irish higher educational institutions," O’Driscoll said.