Universities in Australia and New Zealand, where borders have remained closed to international students for over 18 months, have found innovative ways to keep online learners engaged by setting up special learning centres in China.
And student ‘hubs’ elsewhere in Asia are supporting students enrolled in different universities overseas, and who would otherwise be isolated at home with online learning.
Many universities swiftly moved to online learning when the pandemic emerged and borders were closed to foreign students from early 2020. But keeping students engaged, so that they do not drop out or defer, until borders re-open has been an additional challenge for universities heavily dependent on international student fees.
A new study hub, organised by New Zealand’s University of Auckland, Vietnam-based LightPath, an international educational consultancy, and a local group UP Education, opened in July in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City for Vietnamese students enrolled in universities abroad, mainly in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but having to continue their studies online in their home country.
It provides a physical space to study with good internet connections, a space to meet other students, study together, and have additional face-to-face support and non-curriculum classes in areas such as study skills, writing papers, research in the Western context, and career support.
The Ho Chi Minh City hub draws on Auckland’s experience with learning centres in China where it has large cohorts of stranded students. It has smaller numbers of enrolled students in Vietnam, so the hub is cost effective, bringing together students in Vietnam enrolled in various foreign universities.