Reducing the impact of COVID-19 on inequalities in higher education: A call for action to the international community

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected higher education systems across the world. In April 2020, the International Association of Universities (IAU) conducted a survey across 400 universities in over 100 countries to assess the impact of COVID-19. Over 97% indicated that the pandemic had impacted the way learning and teaching were conducted, including closures. The inequalities that were already present in the system have been exacerbated by the pandemic and we believe this must serve as a catalyst for systemic change. The unfolding challenges and opportunities differentially affect students, instructors, administrators and institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened inequalities in higher education by reducing flexibility and mobility, constraining access to resources, and limiting in-person development opportunities.

This communiqué highlights some of the most pressing challenges and opportunities for higher education systems globally surrounding inequalities. It concludes with recommendations to university administrators, policymakers, research funding agencies, and academies on priority actions to harness the lessons learnt during the pandemic to reduce the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on higher education systems.

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