What Will the 2021 Academic Year Bring for Students?

A Look Ahead at the 2021 Academic Year for Students | Ivy Central

Twelve months ago, as the pandemic took hold around the world, students were graduating from high school into an uncertain situation. For many, the pandemic changed the world from what they had expected and for those preparing to start their university years, rather than leaving home and starting a new life abroad it has meant a year of online classes and spending hours in bedrooms at home. As a new cohort of students prepare to graduate, what will the new academic year bring?

As new strains of COVID 19 appear in different areas of the world the policies of different countries change. The information in this article is correct at the time of writing but you should check the most up to date information from official Government sources of the country you will be travelling to.

The United States

Across the United States colleges and universities have been setting out their plans for restarting in person fall terms after a year of teaching online. The full details are still being worked on, but many colleges are indicating that nearly all aspects of college life will return this August.

The return of students to campuses does not mean a full return to college life as it was pre-pandemic, students are still likely to need to social distance, ware facemasks and take regular COVID tests. A steadily growing number of colleges, particularly private, are making it a requirement that students are fully vaccinated before being allowed to return to lectures, dorms and dining halls.

Some colleges are being more cautious and are proposing to use a hybrid model of both in person study, particularly for subjects that are more practical, and online sessions.

The US Government has been easing its travel restrictions of students travelling to the United States for college, when recently they announced a ban on people arriving from India, they made an exemption for students commencing their studies, provided they have been vaccinated.

The United Kingdom

Last autumn, universities in the UK welcomed new students back into halls of residence but as the second wave of COVID grew during the following months, students were moved back to home and online learning. Since then the vaccination programme is continuing apace with the expectation that all people in the UK, over the age of 18, will have been offered a vaccination by the summer. From mid May 2021, universities will reopen for all students to attend in person and the expectation is that university life will be near normal for those starting this coming September.

Like colleges in the US, not all lectures will be in person and so some learning will be done by students in their college accommodation.

Travel to the UK remains open although there is a requirement for all arrivals to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.


Universities in Canada are also planning to welcome students back, in person, in the fall, however there remains a higher level of uncertainty as to just what this will look like. Most universities are suggesting that it is unlikely teaching and on campus activities will return to pre-pandemic levels and that some online teaching will remain.

Recently Canada has seen an increase in COVID cases which is causing universities to tighten restrictions and move more courses online, how this will impact on plans for the fall remains to be seen.

Throughout the pandemic, students have still been able to travel to Canada, if they are studying at a designated university. All students arriving are required to quarantine for fourteen days, three of which are in a designated quarantine centre. You will also be required to take two COVID tests.

Australia and New Zealand

With their different timing of the academic year, it is still too early for colleges and universities to confirm their plans for students start their university studies at the start of 2022. Some of the most popular institutions for international students in Australia accepted a record number of students in the last few months, however they have had to commence their studies virtually. Both countries have had some of the strictest boarder restrictions in the world and the respective Governments have told institutions that it may be well into 2022 before most international students return to in person teaching.

In Australia some colleges have been offering refunds of up to 20% to encourage international students to enrol while boarders a closed, but many observers believe there will be a significant fall in student numbers for the next academic year.

Final Word

It’s fair to say that institutions around the world are keen for students to return to campuses as soon as possible. With this in mind, tentative plans are being put in place but prospects for students are looking significantly better than twelve months ago.

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