COVID-19 Crisis Response of Higher Education Institutions: Tampere University (TAU) and University of São Paulo (USP)

COVID-19 Crisis Response of Higher Education Institutions: Tampere University (TAU) and University of São Paulo (USP)

Uliana Furiv (IIEP-UNESCO, France), Vuokko Kohtamäki (Tampere University, Finland), Elizabeth Balbachevsky (University of São Paulo, Brazil), and Sirpa Virta (Tampere University, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8213-8.ch012
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This chapter explores the preparedness and initial responses to the COVID-19 crisis of two higher education institutions, Tampere University in Finland and the University of São Paulo in Brazil, using a crisis management framework. The crisis has disrupted teaching and research operations and caused unforeseen challenges to universities. While the crisis is still ongoing, and the long-term impact of the crisis cannot be assessed, this chapter focuses on the initial phase of the crisis, crisis preparedness, and response. The findings suggest that the Finnish case university applies a very systematic and centralized crisis management strategy, while the Brazilian case university has a more decentralized approach coming from its collegial mode of governance. Cross-case analysis shed light on similarities and differences in their capacity to respond to crises such as COVID-19.
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This chapter considers the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis to which the world and organizations have responded differently. The impact of the crisis on higher education institutions (HEIs) has been enormous. In the early months of the pandemic, more than 20,000 HEIs suspended or postponed teaching and research activities, affecting more than 200 million students worldwide in more than 200 countries (Brown, 2020).

HEIs used a variety of strategies to limit the spread of COVID-19, the most common approach being to move teaching and learning activities online. However, many HEIs lacked the technological resources and preparedness of staff and students to adapt to new educational delivery modes. The World Bank estimates that the impact of the pandemic on higher education was exacerbated by insufficient preparedness of HEIs. Very few institutions had pre-existing plans to respond effectively to the crisis (World Bank, 2020).

The existing literature on HEIs’ responses to COVID-19 is fairly generic and does not provide a more in-depth analysis of their responses. This chapter aims to fill this gap by examining the initial response to COVID-19 by two case universities - Tampere University in Finland and the University of São Paulo in Brazil. The authors focus on the timeframe from January 2020 to May 2020. Brazil is one of the largest Latin American countries, and Finland is a small country in a group of Nordic countries. They have different cultures, histories and socioeconomic conditions. Despite these differences, HEIs in both Finland and Brazil played an important role in the continuity and sustainability of their societies during the pandemic. This chapter analyzes how the two institutions responded to the COVID-19 crisis and considers differences in institutional approaches.

The authors use a crisis management framework, which comprises three basic stages: pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis, widely used in crisis response studies of private and public organizations, including HEIs (Drennan and McConnell, 2007; Drennan, McConnell and Stark, 2015; Pursiainen, 2018). As the COVID-19 crisis is still ongoing and HEIs are still in the midst of it, it is impossible to analyze all three stages of crisis management. In this chapter the authors will focus on the first two stages of crisis management and their components – pre-crisis (crisis assessment, prevention and preparedness) and crisis (response).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Crisis Management: An approach deployed by individuals or organizations to deal with crisis which involves critical decisions within a critical time frame and with the best available information.

Crisis Communication: An action during a crisis response stage to inform individuals, communities and organizations about the crisis and crisis management strategies.

Crisis: A state of emergency that disrupts functions of individuals, communities, or organizations.

Crisis Preparedness: Measures taken by individuals, communities, or organizations to prepare for, prevent or reduce the impact of crisis.

Crisis Management Team: A group of specialized individuals responsible for prevention and response during crisis in an organization.

Crisis Stages: Three stages of crisis development: pre-crisis, crisis, post-crisis.

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