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University shutdowns affecting 120 million students worldwide

Unesco partners with tech companies to step up provision of distance learning

Over 120 million students in higher education across the world are unable to attend classes due to the coronavirus, according to the latest data from Unesco, the UN agency for education.

The agency has calculated that roughly half of the world’s student population–from pre-school through to higher education–are affected by school and university closures. As of 19 March, nationwide closures are in force in 107 countries and local closures in 12 others, with further shutdowns expected.

To respond to the unprecedented halt to global education, Unesco has launched a ‘Global COVID-19 Education Coalition’ to help deliver remote learning workarounds for courses, with technology partners including Microsoft. The agency was not immediately able to give further details on how the coalition would support universities.

“This effort is an opportunity to rethink education, scale-up distance learning and make education systems more resilient, open and innovative,” said the Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay in a statement.