Not that long ago, a major concern amongst university administrations and student recruiters in the UK and Australia was the effect the increased threats of terrorism against those countries – and the US – would have on the numbers of students who wanted to do advanced academic work in those countries. Would parents wanting to give their children the best educational advantages available also send their children into potential war zones?
The actual effect has been hard to measure, since the factor is not easily quantifiable.
Right now, one of the world’s biggest security threats – a steadily heating global climate and the extreme weather changes that seem to be caused by it – is striking the UK at its literal heart, giving universities throughout the country a host of new things to worry about. Britain is undergoing its greatest flooding in at least 60 years – not incidentally at the same time southern Europe is withering under a record heat wave that has taken the lives of at least 60 people as of this writing.
A glimpse at a map of the areas hardest hit by the floods in England bring place names renowned throughout the world. The prime example, Oxford, on the River Thames, is synonymous with British higher education. It’s still what newscaster call ‘early days’, so there’s no telling what the damage to Oxford and others of Britain’s top universities have been or will eventually be. At the time of this writing, the concern is still for saving lives and whole towns from being washed away.
One likely thing is that the clean-up will include a deep look at what can be done to protect some of the world’s greatest universities, their facilities – and their students. For the most part, terrorism has been a treat that has manifested mostly in London – and terrorist attacks have not had an only-in-England stamp. As but one conspicuous example, the generations-old conflicts between native Thai Buddhist and separatist Thai Muslim populations in Thailand’s southernmost three provinces have, over the last year, reached new peaks of violence sparked by an energized insurgencies. Thai students thinking of studying abroad in countries such as the UK would be only too familiar with the ubiquity of world terrorism.
How universities everywhere – not just in the UK – deal with the ‘extreme weather’ we have been told to prepare for throughout the world could have profound effects on the very nature of the educations those universities offer. Until now, they have, for the most part, promised advanced insights and training in the practices of international business. Now that global climate change in all its aspects is threatening to become a ‘growth industry’ – from earth science to public policy – the opportunity to educate and train young students in a range of new knowledge and skill areas they may well need to survive, wherever they live and work after earning advanced degrees, is one they will miss at the world’s collective peril.