The book arrives two years after the World Health Organization announced, in March 2020, the global outbreak of the pandemic.
One of the contributors, William Gerard Tierney, writes that higher education as a global system has never experienced anything similar to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a chapter titled “The Pandemic Repercussions: Strategies for Higher Education Recovery and Reform”, he says the effect of the pandemic was greater than that of wars, disease, or financial crises.
Tierney, who is the founding director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of South California, explores recovery strategies in four areas: assessment, education, technology, and financing.
While he rules out an immediate solution to the problems caused by the pandemic, he presents an optimistic view of higher education, provided that universities take bold steps to reform.
Tierney, who is also a former president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), says that when campuses return to full capacity, institutions should analyse what students learned during the pandemic when classes were primarily online.
It would be wrong to assume that the transition from in-person to online classrooms was seamless, he says. Several unofficial reports suggest that simply passing the subject was seen as an achievement for some students.
Students who have just graduated from high school, or have moved from one institution to another, may have had the most turbulent learning experiences, he wrote, due to their lack of experience using online technologies.
Financial Health Assessment
Tierney says the purpose of a financial assessment is not to determine if an institution has lost revenue during the pandemic. Almost all institutions have witnessed shortfalls in tuition fees, government subsidies, or ancillary services. Financial crises enable organisations to determine whether their activities match the institutional priorities, he says.
He adds that universities are not exempt from thinking too broadly having over-ambitious goals. “What is dangerous in this is that the institution is spread too widely across multiple areas,” he says. “As a result, the institution will not be very good at doing anything, and what may be required is downsizing and focus of the institution.”