Edition 227 - March 2020

ACA’s and members’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak

The global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly impacting the world of higher education in an unprecedented manner, challenging amongst others, core international education activities that we used to take for granted – physical international student and staff mobility and exchange, and more broadly, face-to-face international cooperation.
 
ACA member organisations – in their large majority funding bodies of international student and staff mobility and collaboration, with many acting also as the national agencies for the Erasmus+ programme – have been working tremendously hard in the past few weeks, together with their higher education institutions, national and European level authorities, to mitigate the impact of the crisis on Erasmus+ and national scholarship holders. They have tried to ensure that international cooperation activities can be safeguarded, as much as possible, in these exceptional circumstances.

The general approach has been one of pragmatism and maximum flexibility towards the beneficiaries of the programmes. The agencies have worked creatively to find immediate solutions, most often enabling scholarship holders to either

  • continue to receive the scholarship and still take advantage of the international education experience, most often by enabling and recognising distance learning arrangements, regardless of the beneficiaries’ physical location (with many of them having to return ‘home’).
  • postpone the scholarship to a new start date.
  • suspend the scholarship for a certain amount of time; or ultimately
  • cancel the scholarship.

Beyond finding flexible solutions, major operations had to be organised for the repatriation of mobile students and staff, as well as to create new support lines for students and staff whose funding period had come to an end, but who cannot return to their ‘home’ countries because of the health crisis and related travel restrictions. The latter group is an important one, and shouldn’t be forgotten. Several illustrations of how ACA members are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis can be found in other articles of this newsletter, by way of example.
 
On its part, ACA continues to provide a space for members to actively exchange on related burning questions, to learn from each other and to align actions. Beyond supporting the coordination of immediate responses, ACA will also facilitate, in the months to come, a wider reflection on the broader and longer-term impact of the COVID-19 on core internationalisation activities, on funding and organisational models, amongst others.

In the coming months, ACA plans to organise most of its statutory meetings, events and project-related activities online. Relevant information will be shared in due course via the ACA website, mailing list and on ACA’s social media channels. The ACA Secretariat remains fully operational online, and can be contacted, as usual, via email.

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