On 10 May, we held a roundtable discussion with French State representatives and the academic community on the right to higher education in France, to discuss the issues of territorial inequalities and privatisation.
In our last article, we addressed the impact of Covid-19 on students' mental health. We highlighted how financial struggles increase the risk of mental health issues, and the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened students’ precarity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the access to higher education in numerous ways, some of them indirect. Students encounter difficulties such as mental health or precarity issues that result indirectly from the health crisis and the measures taken by governments.
A major innovation brought about by globalization within higher education is the increase in academic mobility. Every year, millions of students cross borders to access higher education, or to discover a new way of learning. This experience full of autonomy and novelty pushes their self-development and opens doors to other cultures.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has raised many difficulties for all students in terms of access to higher education online, coping with mental health issues, and escaping economic precarity, those in their first year face particular obstacles. Indeed, this group has faced exacerbated challenges.
Access to a reliable internet connection has become increasingly important over the last year, as much of day to day life switched from in person to online as the pandemic raged through the world. Yet many students have struggled with technical issues since the onset of Covid 19, with existing inequalities further entrenched by this variable digital access.
For Quentin, a first year student on the Master of Information and Communication programme at the Catholic Institute of Paris, internet connectivity and digital learning have proved significant issues in his ability to study. At the beginning of the academic year, Quentin was living in his parents’ place in a small town (Saint Martin) of the Val d’Oise (around 3 000 inhabitants), only 30km away from Paris. In early September, his faculty’s administration announced that they would alternate on-campus and online classes every other week. At first, this arrangement seemed fine; when he felt isolated during the week with online classes, he thought about the week to come where he would be on campus. He first lived this time quite happily, alternating one week with long journeys to the campus and one week at home. Mid-october, this nice arrangement came to an end because of the second lockdown. All in all, he had had 5 weeks of in-person classes by mid-october, when classes went on a full online system. The real challenges were yet to come. The move to online teaching had strong consequences for Quentin, in terms of access to higher education, quality of teaching, but also social isolation.
Technical and connection issues
The Covid 19 crisis has challenged all aspects of daily life. Ensuring the fundamental missions of higher education systems can continue is part of these challenges. The lives of students have changed, new issues have emerged and new practices have developed.
The beginning of the school year is approaching and unaccompanied minors are left behind and will not be able to enrol school on 1 September. Below is an update on the current situation that threatens to leave many migrants out of school.
In France, the health crisis has exacerbated the educational exclusion of young foreign adults. For many, this period has made it impossible to go through all the administrative procedures necessary for their regularisation. This situation receives very little attention and the French educational community and civil society are working hard to highlight this administrative gap that compromises the right to education of so many migrant youth.