Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Climate Change and Global Sustainability

First Advisor

Dr Katharina Kreppel

Second Advisor

Dr Richard Walz


The COVID-19 pandemic impacts all sectors of society. It is necessary to understand how higher education institutions (HEIs) react to, adapt to, and build resilience in the face of such a crisis. HEIs around the world shifted how they deliver education to their students and struggled to adapt to a changing economy. Yet, there is little information on how HEIs bolster their resilience to exogenous shocks, like the coronavirus. This study assesses how the COVID-19 crisis impacted institutional resilience and climate change research at four HEIs: the University of Vermont (UVM) and Vermont Law School (VLS) in Vermont, United States of America, and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) and the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Tanzania, East Africa. Resilience in HEIs during COVID-19 provides insight into how such institutions may fare when faced with other crises, like climate change. Furthermore, the current crisis provides evidence of how these institutions can mitigate the effects of crises in the future. In this project, the focus of assessment is resilience related to community and funding in HEIs. Twenty interviews conducted with faculty, staff, and administrators at four institutions indicate that climate change research will continue at HEIs; however, there is concern, especially at institutions in Tanzania, about external funding. While each university differed in its decisions for the continued education of students, the two HEIs in Vermont independently turned to hybrid and online education, while the two institutions in Tanzania continued in-person classes based on a government order. The school most resilient to the COVID-19 shock was VLS. The other three HEIs made incremental changes to ensure educational services and research going forward. The project recommends four strategies to bolster institutional resilience at HEIs: institutions should act as independent communities and universities should strive to diversify their funding sources, guarantee faculty and staff members a voice in decision-making, and create flexible emergency plans disseminated across their institution. If acted on, the lessons learned by HEIs during the COVID-19 crisis can strengthen institutional resilience to other exogenous shocks, like climate change.


African Studies | Community-Based Research | Environmental Studies | Higher Education