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  • Writer's pictureZornitsa Licheva

Higher Education Principles in Times of Crisis

Updated: May 12, 2020

Use these industry guidelines to steer an appropriate response from your university to the Covid-19 crisis.

Now, more than ever, international universities need to be mindful of the responsibility they bear for their communities.

Universities and business schools that will be able to rise above the current challenge are those that find the best new ways to keep functioning while preserving the safety of their community.

To help institutions apply ethical practices in this situation, many industry professionals have already joined forces by publishing timely recommendations. One important example is the Principles for Higher Education: Response to Covid-19” compiled by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Although they address US universities and colleges, these guidelines bear important reminders for educational institutions all over the world.

The document is organised into five topics, starting with general principles. Recommendations for the treatment of employees and practices related to curriculum and instruction in light of Covid-19 take up the major part of the list. University decision-makers can also find guidelines about intellectual property and protection of whistleblower researchers.

Here are some highlights from the document that your organisation should take into account.

Treatment of employees

When it comes to protecting the rights of faculty and other staff members, it is important to consider all level of employment.

Every employee should be held harmless economically and professionally for the dislocations caused by Covid-19. This particularly includes adjunct and contingent faculty and graduate employees and staff – including hourly staff.

Has your organisation taken the necessary measures to help staff members who have children and might need additional resources to care for their families? This is another guideline pinpointed by AFT and AAUP.

Institutions should have plans in place for employees with children whose regular school or daycare situation is interrupted by closures due to Covid-19.

Effects of Covid-19 on curriculum and instruction

Has your university or department undertaken long-term planning after the need for full-time online teaching and learning subsides?

Institutions should acknowledge that transitioning a course to an online environment in a one-time crisis does not necessarily mean the course can be successfully taught in an online environment under normal conditions, and does not obligate the faculty member to teach the course online in the future.

Educational institutions planning to expand their digital teaching practices after the crisis need to follow the ethical principles of online and distance education and consult with appropriate faculty decision-making bodies.

So far, universities and business schools around the world have proven that learning can be flexible and adaptive. Higher education should continue to serve as a pillar of support and safety for its communities.

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