Covid-19: What’s going on around the world (26th March)

We’ve had a go at keeping an eye on what’s going for students and universities around the world.

On 26th March, this is what we found:

In Australia there was significant concern about students affording essentials including rent – and some worry that they would be better off on general unemployment benefits. As a result on Monday evening their Senate heard and accepted amendments to their main package of support (“Coronavirus Supplement”) that meant it will now also go to full-time students receiving the three main packages aimed at students – Abstudy, Austudy and the Youth Allowance for Students. NUS Australia’s President Twitter is here.

In New Zealand, as the pandemic disrupts the tourism and hospitality industries in particular, many students find themselves out of a job and struggling to pay rent while an initial four-week government lockdown looms. Students can get a weekly payment of up to $235.84 from Studylink to cover their living costs, but that is quickly consumed by housing costs in expensive university cities like Wellington and Auckland. The New Zealand Union of Students Associations (NZUSA) is demanding that the government establish a “Covid-19 Hardship Fund” for students in this position, but there’s no response from Government yet.

The Canadian Federation os SUs has been making demands both nationally on Government, and on institutions. Nationally, so far payments on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans are being halted until September (with no loan interest) – but provinces have not yet announced a similar measure for the provincial portion of students loans. They’re also making some clear demands on institutions – you can see the headlines on their website and there’s a great SU toolkit here.

In Sweden SFS has been crowdsourcing student issues here. One issue fixed is that students will get to keep their student funding even if teaching is cancelled – and student loans granted where no tuition is given will not have to be repaid. Meanwhile in Norway its NUS expects that tomorrow (Friday 27th) the Government will announce a package for students with income lapses as a result of the coronavirus – leaks suggest the government will make an additional loan of NOK 26,000 (about £2,000).

In the USA, the major stimulus package includes a $14.25 billion allocation to support higher education. At least half of the money, which will come from the Department of Education, is earmarked for students. But the rest can be spent “to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and closures”. Several universities last week asked Congress to include $13 billion to cover expenses that range from providing online teaching to students who have been sent home, to the loss of revenue from students no longer paying rent for living in university-owned housing.

In Finland, the student grant is usually only available for those who have made sufficient progress in their studies. Its National Union is working with the Government and higher education institutions to ensure that students are guaranteed income in the current, exceptional circumstances. It – like everyone else – is also encouraging higher education institutions and students to ensure that individuals stay at home whenever any symptoms appear and find alternative ways of completing their courses.

In Ireland there’s a national call to pay student nurses being drafted in to help. On Thursday the Dáil was due to debate measures to help renters who have been affected by Covid-19, including a temporary ban on evictions and a pause on rent increases for an initial period of three months.

We’ll try to keep this page up to date as we hear things.

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