Bridging the gap for international students in the wake of Corona

Monday, September 20th, 2021 00:00 |
IUPC members of staff led by Academic Manager Tom Olang (Centre), during the institution’s launch recently. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG

Investments in Kenya’s higher education sector is forecast to continue in the long term, making it exceptionally fertile ground for student recruitment.

Globally, higher education – and particularly the ‘study-abroad’ concept, continues to attract investors despite the existing challenges triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a 2020 survey by, an international student recruitment programme,  5.4 per cent of prospective students intend to cancel their study abroad plans in light of the pandemic.

About 45.2 per cent of prospective students interested in in-person study opportunities were entertaining the idea of studying an international degree digitally.

“Students who told us they were primarily interested in in-person (or classroom) courses are now considering getting their degrees online due to Covid-19,” the report read. 

In light of this, institutions are responding quickly to the rising demands for online study options for the international student community, with 85.1 per cent of current students surveyed saying they are taking classes online due of Covid-19.

 The International University Pathways College (IUPC), for instance, is one such institution eyeing the growing number of prospective international students with the unveiling of a Kenyan outlet that offers pre-university programmes.

According to the institution’s Academic Manager, Tom Olang, the Nairobi-based satellite campus will fundamentally target learners seeking higher education and degree courses from renowned global universities.

“This is a foundation programme that offers a pathway, which students can follow to start their undergraduate programmes abroad and we are doing this in collaboration with our partner universities.

We target students who have done year 11 and A-levels, as well as those with Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education training and want to move overseas,” noted Olang in an interview.

IUPC’s recent launch coincided with the rapid increase in confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 in key destination countries for internationally mobile students, such as the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States.

When the pandemic hit last year, more countries introduced tighter restrictions, including lockdowns to tackle the spread and rising death toll from coronavirus.

As a result, key sectors, including education took a hit from such interventions – meaning the majority of learners were forced to change their study abroad plans with flight travels not an option.

“It became difficult for students to transit abroad. Travel bottlenecks birthed the motivation to launch here in Kenya,” reveals Olang.

Although potential students are interested in studying their degrees online, Olang notes that their concerns regarding the quality and recognition of a virtual degree weigh heavily on most of them.

“We are seeing a growing interest and requests with over 70 students expressing plans to enroll just weeks after our official launch,” he said.

IUPC is a one- of-a-kind facility located at the heart of posh Lavington neighbourhood that aims to specialise on International Foundation Year (IFY) in aggregation with the Northern Consortium of UK universities (NCUK).

“Our students can choose to study thousands of degree courses and progress to universities in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, Canada and USA and our dedicated student support team will help them through their entire university application journey,” he says, adding that students are guaranteed admission in those partner campuses.

Olang further says that the affordable costs of study singles out the institution as a go-to place for such programmes.

The curriculum calendar lasts a minimum of 30 weeks with a semester each lasting 15 weeks or nine months for the entire foundation course.

“The cost effectiveness comes in terms of doing the foundation. You need between Sh3 million and Sh4 million to do it abroad for the one year programme, while it will cost about Sh1.1 million to pursue the same programme in Kenya,” opines Olang.

The vision of the college is to create a globally-connected institution in Business, Sciences, Humanities, Art and Design and Innovation, tackling 21st Century challenges and opportunities and developing future leaders and managers.

“Our expansive curriculum covers Business, Humanities, Engineering, Art and Design and Science/Medicine streams.

Students can then progress into over 4,000 degree choices, such as Law, Architecture, Finance and Marketing, Interior Design, Computer Science,” added Olang.

Olang says pathway programmes are, especially popular among students from international schools who do not want to go through the traditional A-Level Programme that takes 30 weeks of teaching then join universities abroad.

“It is also necessary for Kenya Certificate of Secobdary Education graduands who have 12 years of education, but need the 13th year to fit in the UK universities.

Students proceeding to the US could get a credit waiver for the extra year they spend here since the US needs 12 years of education,” he offers.

At the IUPC Kenya campus,  in-person learning and paper-based assessment are being conducted at the moment.

“We noted that even when institutions had placed systems to deliver the curriculum through online platforms, a significant number of students across institutions were not able to make the most of the learning experience.

Some had ‘zoom fatigue;’ others had connectivity challenges and low bandwidth; some simply failed to log in or logged in, but listened passively without benefitting from the classes; a few simply hated online classes.

That, however, is not to say that online learning is not beneficial,” Olang said in conclusion.

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