- Universities in many countries, including Australia and Germany, are allowing international students to take part in all academic activities by staying in native countries
- The Bangladesh Bank has allowed students to send money abroad to pay online education fees at foreign educational institutions
- Some students, however, are reluctant to do classes online as they think online classes cannot be a substitute for live classroom education
- Students planning to go abroad for higher education after the pandemic might face financial crises as getting part-time jobs will be difficult for them
Md Shafiqur Rahman obtained a scholarship from the Russian government to do a master's degree in Comparative Politics of Eurasia at the National Research University Higher School of Economics.
Shafiqur was tensed as it appeared impossible for him to take admission in the university amid the current Covid-19 pandemic. He even thought he might lose the opportunity to receive higher education abroad and that his dream would be shattered.
However, an email sent by the university 15 days ago, asking him to complete the admission process online, came as a great relief to an anxious Shafiqur. The university also gave him some instructions on how he can take part in online classes, scheduled to start from September 1.
Like Shafiqur, hundreds of other students --- who got scholarships or took admission in foreign universities with personal funds but were unable to go to their destination countries amid the pandemic --- can now have their dreams turn into reality because of the online operations of foreign universities.
Universities in many countries, including Australia and Germany, will consider online classes as in-person classes, allowing international students to take part in all academic activities by staying at home in their native countries.
According to government and non-government sources, about 25-30 thousand Bangladeshi students go abroad for higher studies every year.
Data provided by Unesco reveal that Malaysia, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates are the top ten destinations for Bangladeshi students.
In 2017, some 34,155 Bangladeshis enrolled at various universities in Malaysia, 5,441 in the United States, 4,652 in Australia, 3,599 in the United Kingdom, 2,028 in Canada, 2,008 in Germany, 1,099 in India, 870 in Saudi Arabia, 810 in Japan and 637 in the United Arab Emirates, the Unesco data reveal.
Shegufta Khondoker, senior counsellor at MACES – one of leading overseas education consultancy agencies in Bangladesh – told The Business Standard that many students have been continuing online classes. Some of them will be completing their admission online, she added.
"About 500 students from our study centre have received letters to take admission at over 200 universities in six countries – the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and Malaysia. We are cooperating with everyone on a completion of the admission process and starting online classes," she added.
"The students are proving that life goes on and that even a pandemic can't stop them from studying abroad, even if they are staying in Bangladesh.
"Most students who were supposed to travel abroad to join the summer intake at different universities couldn't travel due to worldwide travel restrictions. Universities also have switched to online teaching and MACES advises students to enrol for programmes online so that their studies continue unabated," she said.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Bank has made it easier for corporate entities and students to send money abroad to pay for webinar solution services and online study fees at foreign educational institutions.
On Sunday, the central bank issued two separate circulars regarding the release of outward remittances.
"I am very grateful to the National Research University Higher School of Economics for allowing me to take part in classes from Bangladesh. It was my dream to study in Russia, which was made uncertain by Covid-19. However, now I am going to fulfill my long-awaited mission," said a relieved Shafiqur Rahman.
"I will attend the freshers' reception programme online on Wednesday. It will be an exciting moment for me," he added.
Labiba Chowdhury, a BBA student of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan, has been taking part in every class virtually.
Upon receiving a message from the university that it was going to start online classes, she was happy as she did not want to see her semester deferred due to the Covid-19 situation.
She also got the chance to stay with her family members in Bangladesh during the pandemic period.
Dr Md Moazzem Hossain, associate professor at Murdoch University, told The Business Standard that universities in Australia have been conducting all classes and other academic activities online. Bangladeshi students also have been given the opportunity to participate in academic activities, including admission and online classes, from their homes in Bangladesh.
"International students who take part in classes from their homes will be treated like those who are staying in Australia. They will be promoted just as Australian students are promoted," he said.
Some students reluctant to continue online classes
Some students, however, are reluctant to do classes online.
They argue that online classes cannot be a substitute for live classroom education.
Tahmidul Islam, assistant professor at Pabna University of Science and Technology, who has got a scholarship for doing a two-year master's degree from Texas A&M University in the USA, is one such individual.
"I would like to learn, not to obtain a certificate only. I think real learning is impossible through online classes, which is why I will not go for higher education right now," he told The Business Standard.
Meanwhile, some students are also afraid that they will get infected if they go abroad for higher studies. Some others, however, want to stay with their family members even after the situation is normalised.
Students might face crises after pandemic
Students staying abroad have been facing severe financial crises as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Many shops and restaurants are still closed, while some have reopened on a limited scale with limited manpower.
Anwar Hossain Sagor, who studies at the European University of Flensburg in Germany, said all educational institutions, research centres and restaurants in Germany have been closed since April 19.
"We are in a lot of trouble as most Bangladeshi students work part-time at these research centres and restaurants. It will be tough for us to bear our educational and other expenses if the situation continues."
Against this backdrop, students who plan to go abroad for higher education might be plunged in a financial crisis as getting any part-time job will be very tough for them.
Dr Md Moazzem Hossain said that basically two types of Bangladeshi students will not face any problem – those who have financial support from their families and those who are doing registered jobs.
However, new students who do not belong to the registered jobs category will not earn money and will face a financial crisis, he added.