COVID-19: How online semesters have affected uni offer acceptances

The uncertain future has left many Indian students in limbo about deferring, accepting, or cancelling university offers this year.

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In the last decade, the US, UK, and Australia have been coveted education hubs for Indian students. Not only have they offered great study opportunities but they’re often the steppingstone towards post-study work visas and residencies. However, the uncertainty that has come with the pandemic has left many Indian students wondering: what do they do with their university offers now?

Many students like Pune’s Nicole Louzado, who has been accepted for a postgraduate degree in event management at the University of Queensland, plan to defer their offers instead of attending an online semester from home.

“UQ has categorized all courses as internal flexible and external,” she described to Indian Link. “If the course is flexible, you have the options of online or offline learning. If it’s external, you don’t have a choice – it’s online even if you’re in Australia.  All the courses in my first semester are going to be online, so it doesn’t make sense for me to come to Australia and do the course sitting in my room.”

Because of the practical nature of her degree in tourism, hospitality, and event management, she hasn’t been tempted by fee waivers from the university.

“They’re offering the chance to do it online from India, with a fee waiver of around 12.5 per cent. But it doesn’t make sense for my course,” she said.

Louzado plans to wait till July in case there are any changes but says there’s a 99 per cent chance that she will have to defer to February 2021.

“I was all set to go! I had gotten everything done before the pandemic, including my visa. The only thing left were flight tickets. It’s a big bummer that I have to wait another 6-8 months because I still want to do this. If courses move offline, I’d be on the first flight out.”

Other students like Rhea Passey of Chandigarh have grudgingly opted to move forward with their degrees.

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Rhea Passey

She is set to begin her first year in college at Hofstra University in New York this fall, hoping to go on to a degree in psychology.

“There is no alternative as my personal wish is to not delay my start at university, so I won’t defer. Certainly, attending classes in person would have been better choice than online classes,” she said.

Her course will commence as per schedule in August although international students, many of whom were unable to get visas in time due to India’s lockdown, have been given the option of online classes for the first semester.

Tejas Rao of Bangalore has chosen to be optimistic about the unusual situation. He received an offer from the University of Cambridge for its prestigious Master of Law (LLM) program, but no choice of deferral left him with two options: attending an online semester or re-applying with a fresh application next year.

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Tejas Rao

“At this moment, they’ve communicated to us that the term dates have not changed. All public lectures that require a large gathering will be taken online, and tutorials and private interactions with faculty will continue in-person,” he said to Indian Link.

Rao hopes the Indian government will allow international flights to resume before the semester begins, still he’s comfortable with the possibility of an entirely online degree.

“I’m fresh off a five-year degree, so I’m just interested in continuing to study subjects that I’m fascinated by. If deferrals were permissible, I would have to think about it, but it’s very unlikely I would defer, given my future plans.”

Like most students, he’d appreciate a fair reduction in fees to ensure value for money. If that isn’t possible, he says that it’s up to students to get the most value out of this situation.

“It’s on universities to figure out how to tweak the masters experience to help students get value, but it’s also on students to figure out how they can get increased value. Once you make the payment, it’s all about figuring out how to adapt to the circumstances, interact with classmates and faculty, and ensure that you get the best out of the experience,” Rao said.

READ ALSO: International students: Same tuition for an online semester

Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer and editor based in Sydney. In 2022, she was named Young Journalist of the Year at the NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards.

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