Performance of Higher Education within pandemic and post-pandemic – a perspective from Poland, United Kingdom, and Ukraine

Justyna Maciąg, Tammi Sinha, Tetiana Prykhodko & Mateusz Lewandowski


Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have had to change their delivery and ways of working at incredible speed. The disruptive innovation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is having profound impacts on all stakeholders of HEIs. This study reports on the results of the project which has brought together 3 perspectives from Poland, the United Kingdom and the Ukraine. The purpose was to evaluate and compare the performance of Universities during this period. Performance is understood as assessment of support given by a University to its stakeholders in the following spheres: organisational, technical, technological, competency and social. This study will contribute to better understanding the context of value creation by Universities during the pandemic and post-pandemic period.

We took the perspective of HEI’s stakeholders into consideration (students, academics and admin staff). Their opinions and comments were collected by interviews in the form of an online questionnaire with some open questions. We intended to give them a space to share their perspectives, emotions and feelings caused by the lockdown. The questions carried out thematic analysis around the following issues: 1) organisational (planning and communication), 2) technical, (platforms available, teaching methods), 3) technological, (bandwidth, equipment), 4) competency (your own learning and comfort with online learning), 5) social conditions (your environment for study) of higher education experience within the current COVID-19 pandemic and follow up research post-pandemic. The surveys started in the middle of June 2020 and has continued till October 2020. Sampling follows the snowball method. Participants were self-selecting with links shared for the online Microsoft forms and Google questionnaires. 

We collected 396 questionnaires, 296 students, 100 university staff and academics (240 in Poland, 133 in Ukraine, 24 in UK). We would like to thank all of our participants for their contribution and candour.

First we would like to start with some qualitative analysis of students and staff responses in the questionnaire. The open questions were used to diagnose their experiences related to measures taken by Universities during lockdown. They were also asked to highlight the most and the least effective  solutions offered. We decided to use an Ishikawa Diagram to analyse the possible causes for their most and least solutions identified. We analysed the factors around the COVI19  problem in order to provide insights and possible solutions for an effective and thriving  ‘post-pandemic University’.

We grouped responses under headings showing below in the Ishikawa Diagram.

Chart 1 Ishikawa Diagram

There are some obvious similarities between these countries and some differences. We draw a conclusion that in each country the situation was similar, the teaching-learning process was transferred into our Virtual Learning Environments (VLE), and staff started remote or hybrid work (both academics and admin staff). The difference was notably the mechanism of this change: in the UK it was deemed more incremental change, in Ukraine and Poland the change was more radical. The proof of this is that in the responses in Poland and Ukraine respondents indicated several solutions which aren’t coordinated and supported by the Universities (i.e. using a social media for teaching-learning process, lack of integration of different e-learning platforms). Whereas in the UK many Universities used VLEs as ‘business as usual’.

The common themes identified for research in investigated countries, was the expectation of support in different areas, not only in a teaching-learning process, but also in equipment (provision, repairs), financial aid, mental sphere, and competence development etc. The findings inferred that the expectations of the students and staff support needs were not fully met at this time. Universities were in survival mode and the change management process was lacking in many areas.

Next, we analysed the background given by quantitative analysis of University performance in the technical, competence and organisational sphere (evaluation was carried out using a 5-points likert scale). The results of research in each country have been shown on the above charts 2.

Chart 2 Evaluation of the support given by university during lockdown (Poland, Ukraine, UK)

We also investigated the need of support and help provided  during the pandemic period studied. The results have been presented on chart 3.

Chart 3 Percentage of respondents who declare that they need support or help.

The results of research showed that ‘University’ is mentioned the most, as the expected supporter for students and staff, both academics and admin. The importance of social support also has appeared in our results. People are looking for assistance among colleagues, thus creating a proper, strong internal social relationship is valuable for them. 

Table 1 The frequently mentioned sources of support.

Our key conclusion from this work, at this time, is the importance of support and setting of expectations of what support is available in HEIs. We  draw a key finding that the understanding of value delivered by ‘the University’ has to change, and leave behind the neoliberal concept of value for money. We need to expand the understanding of value, taking into account the necessity of tolerance perceived inefficiencies within the university. University staff and students have had to adapt very quickly, and use all of their skills and tenacity to deal with this situation. Creating and co-creating value within universities has always been challenging, however the creativity of staff and students has pulled this sector through it. We have all had to become disruptive innovators.


Photo by Jake Espedido on Unsplash

Justyna Maciąg, PhD,  Mateusz Lewandowski, PhD, lecturers and researches in Institute of Public Affairs, at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. 

Tammi Sinha, PhD Senior Lecturer in Operations and Project Management, Director Centre for Climate Action, University of Winchester UK. 

Tetiana PrykhodkoHead of the Program of Analysis and Research,  City Institute at Lviv, PhD student at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Ukraine 

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