The impact of the COVID 19 on the internationalisation of HEIs in Uzbekistan: between constraints and alternative solutions (within the UNICAC project)

In the space of a few weeks our global interconnected societies have

transformed into life in lockdown and with restricted mobility. Every private company, public organisation or educational institution has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Every form of international education is currently affected by the crisis and will be for some time, from study abroad schemes to staff exchanges and internships to transnational collaborative programmes and capacity-building projects in developing countries. Universities have been closed and-or are delivering all education online. Every international conference in higher education has been cancelled or turned into a series of webinars.

While the majority of colleges and universities around the world integrate some form of online education into their coursework, moving all programs online may prove challenging. While some universities may already have strong online systems, smaller universities may struggle under the weight of the demand. University course creators should work closely with their IT departments to ensure their programs are able to be supported online. Right now, video-conferencing apps like Zoom and Webex are throwing universities a lifeline.

In the meantime, at the National university of Uzbekistan the project UNICAC continues to carry out most of the foreseen activities thanks to the use of new technologies and collaborative platforms that help us to tackle the current barrier of physical mobility. Some of these activities are the organisation of virtual working groups meetings to analyse and identify best practices in Teaching/Learning/Research in all partner universities; online seminars to prepare the Strategic Plans of Internationalisation in partner countries; or a workshop about funding opportunities and project preparation.

The COVID-19 pandemic period has a big effect on internationalization of HEIs in Uzbekistan  in terms of international mobility of staff/student/teachers and their onsite trainings. International universities cannot invite professors from foreign countries because of closed borders. International activities, like conferences, seminars, symposiums have been postponed or cancelled.   However, the situation has affected on boosting the distance learning process: many universities have started providing online education, which will enhance new services at HEIs.

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Nevertheless, within the UNICAC framework the following activities were accomplished with the use of online conferencing systems:

— online meetings and seminars with participation of all project partners devoted to the presentation of online courses for teachers, students, and researchers in leading European NEIs;

— online meetings with participants of the NUUzand TUIT project team discussing the ongoing problems and perspectives;

— the equipment purchase agreement was concluded and sent to the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan;

— the organization of online conference in summer was discussed with the partners from Tadjikistan;

— the updated information about the project was translated into Uzbek and released at the official website;

— theNUUz coordinator published the article devoted to the project.

Also, Erasmus+ project UNICAC offers a unique opportunity to PhD and Master students to participate in EU based online tutoring for academic study support. The offer includes online lectures, small group workshops and individual online tutoring starting in June 2020.

            As an international network supporting innovation beyond borders, we know that when people work together, extraordinary things can happen. In the past weeks, our colleagues and partners across the network have been banging their virtual heads together to put in place support measures for developing the project and implementing the activities and tasks into reality.

 

Elvira Abdurashitova

 Member of the UNICAC project

National university of Uzbekistan

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