Global Student Summit

WEDNESDAY 12 MAY 2021 | 13:00-15:30 GMT

Everyone should have the opportunity to pursue higher education, but during the last year COVID-19 has stolen that opportunity from many students the world over. The global pandemic has dramatically disrupted the higher education sector, and with it the lives of students all around the world. We are now seeing significant changes in how students study, how they pay for their tuition and living costs, and even how they think about their future.

The growing crisis in higher education will be the subject of a major event this May hosted by the Varkey Foundation, in partnership with ‘The Global Student Summit’ will be part of the Varkey Foundation’s well-known Global Education Series and will discuss key issues affecting undergraduate students, including the rapid increased adoption of online learning, the student debt and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health.


The Varkey Foundation is convening the event, which will include a discussion of the findings from a new global poll commissioned by on the lives, hopes and fears of undergraduate students around the world. The survey, which polled 17,000 undergraduate students in 21 countries, shows that many of today’s students would broadly support moves toward more online learning in higher education and their desire for more affordability in the system. It also finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the mental health of many undergraduate students around the world.

The Global Education Series event will bring together leaders and experts from across the world's education and skills sector to discuss the future of further education. The event will also convene current and future higher education students to offer their views on the plethora of situations on hand.

Many students want more online learning post-COVID.

48% of students surveyed globally would like their university course to incorporate more online learning, post COVID-19 (versus only 34% who would not.)

Students prefer shorter, cheaper courses.

54% of students surveyed globally said they would prefer their university degree to take a shorter amount of time to complete, if it was cheaper.

Students' mental health has deteriorated during COVID-19.

56% of students  surveyed globally said their mental health has suffered during the period of COVID-19.

Source: Chegg Global Student Survey, 2021


13:00-14:00 GMT
Opening Plenary

"Welcome to the Global Student Summit!"

Welcome Remarks

Sunny Varkey, Founder, Varkey Foundation
Lila Thomas, Director of Social Impact, Chegg & Head,

"This House Believes That The Future of Higher Education is Online"

Is COVID-19 driving a permanent shift toward online learning across the global higher education sector? Over two-thirds of undergraduate students surveyed by in 21 countries say they would rather their university offered the choice of more online learning – if it meant paying lower tuition fees. Hear from experts on both sides of the issue in this debate on the future role of online in higher education.

Speakers For:
John J-H Kim, Senior Lecturer, Harvard Business School
Nathan Schultz, President of Learning Services, Chegg
Speakers Against:
Amy Ogan, Professor of Learning Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Remus Pricopie, Rector, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration
Moderator: Agustin Porres, Regional Director for Latin America, Varkey Foundation

14:00-15:00 GMT

"How Can Higher Education Deliver The Skills Needed for Work?"

Is there a gap between what we’re taught in college, and the skills we need to find a good job? Around a quarter of undergraduate students surveyed by in 21 countries said that access to good quality jobs was the biggest challenge of their generation. Join this workshop to discuss how the higher education sector can deliver the skills needed in today’s workplace.

Claudia Costin, Founder and Director, Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education Policies, Vargas Foundation
Holly Custard, Deputy Director, Institute Partnerships and Outreach, Strada
John Fillmore, President, Chegg Skills
Moderator: Abigail Johnson Hess, Multimedia Reporter, CNBC Make It

"How Do We Make Higher Education Affordable?"

There are massive differences worldwide in how students pay for their higher education. However, students in every country face significant financial stress. Over a third of students surveyed by in 21 countries who have a student loan say they lose sleep over it, while 21% say it makes them so anxious they have sought medical help. Alarmingly, 22% of students surveyed around the world struggled to afford food over the last year. Join this workshop to discuss how to make higher education affordable for students, and hear different ideas from colleagues around the world.

Karen Grace-Baker, Interim Executive Director & Board Chair, ScholarMatch
Roberta Malee Bassett, Global Lead for Tertiary Education and Senior Education Specialist, The World Bank Group
Moderator: Courtenay Brown, Business Reporter, Axios

"Reassessing Assessments: How Do We Ensure Our Students Have The Skills For Success?"

What’s the best way to measure what students in higher education are actually learning? And, as assessment technology advances, is there a way to do things better? Join this workshop to discuss the future of assessment in the higher education sector, and hear new perspectives from colleagues around the world.

Nuno Crato, President, Iniciativa Educação
Daniel De Bonis, Director of Education Policy, Lemann Foundation
Paul LeBlanc, President, Southern New Hampshire University
Moderator: Salman Shaheen, Senior Account Director, Apollo Strategic Communications

"The Challenges Faced By A New Generation of Learners"

A new generation of learners are now entering higher education institutions amid the greatest global disruption in a century. Hear from a panel of extraordinary young people about the challenges they’re facing, how they’re overcoming adversity, and the new ideas they have for the future of education.

Kehkashan Basu, Founder-President, Green Hope Foundation
Sara Hammoud, Engineer, Entrepreneur and Mentor
Victoria Ibiwoye, Legal advocate and peacebuilding practitioner
Vivian Onano, Founder/Director, Leading Light Initiative
Moderator: Naomi Ackerman, Business Reporter, Evening Standard

"How Can Higher Education Address Its Mental Health Crisis?"

The COVID-19 pandemic has badly affected the mental health of higher education students worldwide. Over half of students polled by in 21 countries say their mental health has suffered during the pandemic, most of whom reported heightened stress and anxiety. Hear from a panel of experts about the steps that can be taken to address the growing mental health crisis in higher education.

Michael Huey, Interim Chief Executive Officer, American College Health Association
Tim Knowlson, Peer Support Programme Lead, University of Oxford
Sari Lindblom, Rector, University of Helsinki
Amílcar Sanatan, Steering Committee, Global Student Forum
Shunta Takino, Junior Counsellor and Young Associate, OECD
Moderator: Chris Havergal, News Editor, Times Higher Education

15:00-15:30 GMT

"Dan Rosensweig and Joshua Kim"

All throughout history, the concept of furthering one's education has evolved to appeal to the student, the instructor, and, eventually, the employer. As the world realigns and readjusts following the greatest pandemic outbreak our generation has ever seen, industries everywhere are amending their processes to remain relevant to their audience; including the higher education system. So, what does the future of the higher education system hold in order to best support the students of today and tomorrow?

Dan Rosensweig, CEO, Chegg
Joshua Kim, Director of Online Programs and Strategy, Dartmouth College

"The Future of Higher Education"

Closing Remarks

Lila Thomas, Director of Social Impact, Chegg & Head,



Hear from experts on both sides of a key issue affecting higher education, and vote for who you think made the better argument.


Join a roundtable of experts and students from around the world, convened to discuss a key issue affecting higher education. Each discussion will be led by one or two experts in the field, but the moderator will ensure that all participants will have a chance to have their say.

Panel Discussions

Hear the latest thinking and analysis from a from a panel of experts on key issues in the higher education sector around the world.