Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education - Part 1

The pandemic has caused the world to change extrinsically. It has turned our lives upside down in the process. Oil prices plummeted, unemployment rates increased whilst opportunities emerged such as telemedicine and virtual conferences paving the way for smoother digital transformations in the future. To adjust to the emerging ‘new normal’ we are now learning to adapt to the myriad of local lockdown strategies and protocols.


The pandemic also had a massive impact on education systems worldwide with the closures of schools, universities, and colleges. Most governments around the world took temporary closure measures to reduce the spread of the virus. As of 4th September 2020, approximately 1.277 billion learners are currently affected due to school closures in response to the pandemic. In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance-learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers could use to reach the learners remotely and contain the disruption of education. The timeline of events that played out across the UK Higher Education (HE) sector are detailed in the diagram below:

The pandemic has had an impact on student admissions, teaching and learning processes with a near and long term move to more of a blended learning delivery model with broader digital capabilities within the sector. In this webinar we discussed the impact of Covid-19 on the HE sector, the challenges and opportunities it brings and how the IT function can now help to drive digital change in the sector (sector blog) in an adaptive and iterative way with the right support and investment.

The three key recovery scenarios that were presented, and their impact on admissions, teaching and learning and back-office operations are detailed in the diagram below:

1. Swift Recovery:

If the world and its economy recover quickly, things are more than likely to return to normal with the graph showing a V-shaped recovery rate. Student deferments and refunds would be minimal.

2. Sustained Recession:

This means that the return to normal is slower. The U-shaped graph talks about reduced student admission rates, examinations cancelled or reinvented, and graduations done virtually with limited attendees. Virtually learning would dominate with online classes requiring sophisticated learning tools and curation of content into digital format.

3. Prolonged Recession:

The L-shaped graph indicates a prolonged recession. This would require a hard look at the University business model and future strategy and reinvention in the context of a ‘blended’ delivery model, with the need for new capabilities and upskilling to adapt and thrive in the ‘new normal’.

What has come to the fore, whilst keeping the above scenarios in mind, is that UK HE sector needs to accelerate its digital agenda to protect its current and grow its future revenue streams and for enhanced resiliency for any future shocks/waves of the Pandemic and/or other business continuity challenges. The following key actions will be necessary:


● Reorganisation of University costs in the short term with the identification of essential and non-essential items for rationalisation

● Potential mergers and acquisitions within the sector to address University cost pressures

● Protecting current and expanding future revenue needs in order to meet the changing consumer needs and expectations during and post the Pandemic ‘normal’

● Reimagined teaching programs for a blended delivery model and enhanced distance learning as an essential feature

● Acceleration of the digital agenda for Transformation

The University Corporate Strategy and Business Model (see diagram below):

To deliver teaching, learning and research, the goal would be to re-engineer competencies for the future in order to deliver reimagined student expectations across the student lifecycle. Data from the previous crisis (e.g. the Financial crisis in 2008) have shown that institutions and/or organisations who invested in innovation are the ones who typically ended up surviving and thriving in post the crisis. The ability to ‘pivot’ to come out stronger is paramount. For the short term to medium term the sector will require capability in curating teaching content for online delivery.


The University’s Corporate Strategy would need to be revamped. The core elements to address would be:

○ Research and Teaching & Learning Strategies

○ Industry & International Strategies

○ Academic performance

○ Curriculum design and student experience

○ Professional model and performance

○ Procurement, footprint, commercial optimization

○ Digital & Change Transformation Strategy

Governance and operating model


IQS helps organizations to enhance employee and customer experience through Digital and IT Transformation. We can help you measure, monitor, and enhance your IT end-user and customer experience to deliver on your transformation objectives.

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Please visit the IQS website to view our work and case studies across the Higher Education sector on Digital Transformation:

https://www.innovativequalitysolutions.co.uk/case-studies

To know more about how we can bring about Digital and IT transformation to enhance IT end-user and customer experience, watch our webinar or connect with us for a free consultation where we can explore your needs. We look forward to hearing from you.