Session highlights

The capability to tackle things in the “too difficult” box has always been there and what the pandemic has taught us is if we are forced to do something we will do it. Capability is not a problem. We are all capable of change but if that motivation is not there then it won’t happen. Large institutions are like oil tankers, they take a long time to turn but when they do turn they do make waves.” Vinay Vimalan, Chief Executive, Capital Placement, UK 

  • The question of why young people choose to go to university prompted a range of responses from a panel of students and recent graduates.  For Tabby Nawaz from the UK it was to get away from her small home town, for school student Lim Wan Yi from Singapore it will be to satisfy her personal aspiration to study law but also because “university has become the norm” in her country.  Zaid Omar, who attended university in his home country Malaysia then at the universities of Sheffield and Imperial College in the UK, said it was also because education is about improving society and getting the skills needed to help take his country forward.
  • Students and recent graduates revealed how they had selected their universities, with Zaid Omar saying he went for rankings and reputation and chose Russell Group universities. “All university education may be good but at the end of the day it is what goes on your degree certificate and CV that is important.” By contrast, Tabby Nawaz said she didn’t know anything about the Russell Group of leading UK universities. “I wanted to move away and open up my world and Leeds was a vibrant city, not too far from home and a lot of my friends had gone there,” she said. 

Session summary

A year and more into the pandemic has triggered questions around the long-term implications of the transition and disruptions in higher education, especially for the end-users – the students. This is a generation that has entered higher education at a time of unprecedented changes – where their learning has been significantly impacted and their future remains uncertain. In the medium term, there have been clear positive impacts such as enhanced digital literacy among students and flexibility in learning and evaluation. On the flip side, however, students are questioning the need for brick and mortar institutions, and the return on investment that their degrees offer in terms of relevance and employability in the post-pandemic job market.

This panel explores the challenges, aspirations and expectations of young people in the face of the disruption caused by Covid-19 and examines how Higher Education Institutions and policy makers can support their vision for higher education.

Our objective is to hear, through first-hand experiences, the viewpoints of current students, alumni and school leavers on their vision and aspirations for higher education in a post-pandemic landscape. It is a student and alumni-centred session on how they see the future of education globally, the challenges and opportunities as well as their role in co-creating sustainable solutions with key stakeholders from the sector. 

The session will take place as a dialogue with student representatives from diverse cohorts – prospective, undergraduate, postgraduate and alumni – to hear about their learning experiences and aspirations before, during and beyond the pandemic.  Key takeaways for the audience will include:

  • What are the different experiences and perspectives from the various cohorts?
  • What are the highlights, and what do the students see as challenges?
  • What do students envision in terms of response and support from the sector?

The final words will go to each of the students on the panel, as they set out their vision for the future of higher education.


  • Chair: Jazreel Goh, Country Director, Malaysia, British Council
  • Chair: Dr Chris Hill, Associate Professor, The British University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Chair: Prof. Judith Lamie, Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor International, University of Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
  • Arianna Fang-Yu Lin, PhD student, National Chengchi University, Taipei
  • Dr Lu Gang, CEO, Technode, China
  • Emma Hoang, Student, UG, Sussex University, UK
  • Tabbasim Nawaz, Doctoral Candidate, British University in Dubai, UAE
  • Dr Zaid Omar, Senior Lecturer, School of Electrical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Former Director of Holistic Student Division, Ministry of Higher Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
  • Lim Wan Yi, Student (IB), Anglo-Chinese Independent School, Singapore
  • Shi Yushen, Undergraduate (TNE), Surrey International Institute, Dongbei University of Finance and Economics, United Kingdom
  • Zhou (Tim) Wenye, Grade 2, (A Level student), The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, China