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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 07 October 2020)

07 Oct 2020

Austrade will provide weekly regional updates on the progression and impact of COVID-19 around the world, to support the international education sector as the situation continues to evolve. These reports are compiled using the latest on-the-ground information and advice. The following updates include markets and regions for:

  • Europe
  • South Asia
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • North America



  • After a brief deferment due to COVID-19, the Indonesia Education Endowment Fund (Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan – LPDP) will open scholarship applications on 6 October 2020 for the 2021 study year.
    • The LPDP is a full scholarship given to students who pursue a postgraduate degree in local and international university.
    • There are two types of scholarship provided by LPDP for study abroad: One of these scholarships is an educator scholarship. This scholarship is open for educators employed by Ministry of Education and Culture and Ministry of Religious Affairs.
    • The second scholarship is for members of the general public, whom have attained a postgraduate degree.
    • Australia has become top study destination for LPDP students. From 2013–2020, University of Melbourne, Monash University, and ANU are in the top ten of Australian universities hosting LPDP students. There were 855 students in total hosted by those three universities. For more information please see LPDP's website


  • H.E. Ms. Andrea Faulkner, Australian Ambassador to Myanmar, met with Myo Thein Gyi Minister for Education to exchange views on the impact of the global pandemic on Myanmar’s education, the challenges, current Australia-Myanmar collaboration in education and potential joint efforts. The discussions included the implementation of Myanmar COVID-19 National Response and Recovery Plan for the Education Sector, the No Learning Loss policy and the actions taken, the plan to facilitate internet for teachers and students in remote areas. The discussions also included Australia’s continuous support of Myanmar’s education, such as the Decentralizing Funding for School Program (DSFP), Myanmar Education Quality Improvement Program (My-EQIP), the Strengthening Pre-Service Teacher Education in Myanmar (STEM) Program and Teacher Competency Standards Framework (TCSF) Program.
  • Basic education schools and universities remain closed. The ’No Learning Loss’ policy, includes a Ministry of Education developed mobile LMS application (Myanmar Digital Education Platform) to facilitate the continuous learning of both teachers and school students. Users can access the platform with zero data rate, supported by telecom providers.
  • Starting from late September, international education agents commenced virtual education fairs and a series of webinar campaigns to get in touch with the institutions, students and their overseas study intentions. Austrade Myanmar participated in one of the biggest education seminars with over 1,000 attendees and over 5,000 views of the video. This shows continuing strong interest from prospective Myanmar students in an Australian Education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Myanmar was the fastest growing market for Australia’s international education in 2020, growing at 55 per cent pre-COVID 19.
  • At 1 October 2020, Myanmar has total number of 14,009 COVID-19 cases. Yangon is the core of the epidemic and currently, under stay-at-home orders with tighter regulations and preventative measures along with Rakhine State and 11 other townships across Myanmar. Essential services (health sector, fuel distribution, food and retail, telecom and financial services) need to register through a dedicated app in order to travel between townships.

The Philippines

  • Public schools are set to restart classes from 5 October 2020. The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) reported 24.5 million elementary and high school students enrolled in public and private schools which is 12 per cent lower compared to last year’s figures. As of 9 September 2020, 748 private schools have suspended their operations because of low enrolment and teacher transfer to public schools. Enrolments in private schools were down by 49.5 per cent on the previous academic year. DepEd is optimistic that enrolments will increase, and schools will re-open when the situation improves next academic year.
  • DepEd also released guidelines on daily screen time for student online classes. This serves as a guide for both parents and teachers in online teaching and home-schooling.
  • The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Australian Technology Network (ATN) signed an MOU at the ATN Education Summit on 26 September 2020. The partnership aims to create more meaningful cooperation between the Philippine state universities and colleges (SUCs) and ATN members in the field of science and innovation in higher education and research. CHED will be working with Austrade Manila to assist in the implementation of the identified MOU priorities by linking Philippine SUCs and ATN member universities.
  • Competitor update: The Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines, EU member states’ embassies and cultural institutes in Manila will be hosting a virtual European Higher Education Fair on 2–3 October 2020. 92 higher education institutions (HEIs) from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Slovak Republic, Spain, and Sweden will be presenting at the fair. A series of webinars on mobility opportunities, sponsorship and research programs will also be featured. Travel restrictions depend on each EU member state’s ordinance but many European HEIs offer distance education programs. Philippine HEIs were also invited to explore collaboration with EU HEIs.


  • The Singapore Government announced the easing of travel restrictions for visitors from Australia (excluding Victoria) and Vietnam starting 8 October in a bid to revive the economy and the travel and hospitality industries. At the moment, only Brunei and New Zealand have bans lifted by Singapore. Eligible foreigners from these countries can apply for the Air Travel Pass to seek entry into Singapore (subjected to approval) via direct flights only and they are not required to undertake the 14-day quarantine upon arrival. However, all visitors are still required to be tested and will be isolated for 48 hours until the test results are confirmed.
  • The Singapore Government’s focus on supporting jobs for locals has inadvertently led to unemployment issues for international students currently studying under the Ministry of Education’s Tuition Grant Scheme. Under this scheme, it is mandatory for those international students to serve a three-year bond by working in a Singapore company. International students rely on the Employment Pass (EP) visa to secure a job in Singapore upon graduation. Due to COVID-19, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has tightened the criteria for EP applications in August and this has led to more local companies either freezing or scaling back significantly the hiring of foreigners.
  • The Ministry of Education announced last month that all universities in Singapore are reviewing their curriculum to break down the academic silos and allow students to undertake subjects across disciplines. The National University of Singapore, for example, has plans to establish a new college, slated to be ready by August 2021, which will combine the arts, social sciences and sciences disciplines. Under this new proposal, students are required to take 13 common modules which will include scientific inquiry, design thinking and artificial intelligence. This trend towards interdisciplinary studies is set to stay relevant in Singapore and highlights the changing demand from students for degree programs that can help them compete in the digital era.


  • Two of Thailand’s most prominent education agents will resume face-to-face study abroad fairs in October and November which are usually the peak periods for education events in Thailand. All face-to-face education fairs were suspended since March when the COVID-19 pandemic took off this year. These events will only involve education institutions that have in-country representatives due to the travel restrictions limiting the entry of travellers from abroad. Details of the two education fairs are:
    • 17 October: Study Abroad Fair by IDP Thailand at Novotel Siam Bangkok
    • 7 November: Study Abroad Exhibition by Hands On Education at Bangkok Marriott Sukhumvit Hotel
  • New cohorts of Thai government scholarship students will not be allowed to travel abroad for their studies until mid-2021 due to health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Office of the Civil Service Commission (OCSC) which manages all Thai government scholarship schemes, exemptions to overseas travel will apply to two groups: those who have study abroad experience and those who are continuing students in overseas universities. New students have been encouraged to commence their studies through online channels with their overseas universities and continue with face-to-face study until the COVID-19 situation improves in those countries.
  • Thailand climbed one place to 39, out of 63 countries in IMD World Competitiveness Centre’s Digital Competitiveness ranking for 2020. This is attributable to Thailand’s investment in technology, namely the adoption of 5G.


  • Currently Vietnam has 70 higher education institutions providing international programs and 352 joint active programs. Over 192,000 Vietnamese students are studying overseas and the number of international students coming to Vietnam during the past five years has increased by 10 per cent annually. Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training has recently directed local institutions to accept returning Vietnamese students due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This results in demand for joint delivered programs from local higher institutions, opening doors for Australian institutions to explore further on partnership models.
  • On 14 August 2020, the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam issued an official instruction to all city/provincial education authorities on delivering STEM education at school level. The document aims to raise awareness and build capacity for managers, school leaders and teachers on STEM education with detailed suggestions on STEM models and how to build and deliver lesson plans. This presents an opportunity for Australian providers interested in Vietnam’s school sector and edtech market.


Czech Republic

  • The Czech Government declared state of emergency as of 5 October for the duration of 30 days to enforce restrictive measures to combat the sharp growth of new COVID-19 cases. Secondary and higher vocational schools and universities in regions with high risk will close for 14 days. It will not apply to practical training, or to individual consultations and examinations at universities, or to compulsory school attendance at multi-year grammar schools. The previously approved sum of AUD $92 million allocated to elementary schools to purchase computers, software and ensure internet connection for times when schools are forced to switch to online learning, will increase by AUD $2.5 million to include multi-year grammar schools.
  • Less than half of the outgoing Erasmus exchange students is now planning their study exchange abroad. Their study abroad programs are either cancelled by the students themselves or by the host universities.


  • From 2021, diplomas of Kazakh universities will be recognised in Europe. Students will be provided with a Diploma Supplement, which may also help attract more foreign students to local institutions and push academic mobility. Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science believes that recognition of local diplomas can also be considered as evidence of improvements in higher and postgraduate education.


  • The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t dampened Italian students’ interest in participating in the European Union’s Erasmus student mobility program. With several European countries now experiencing second waves, the program has been adapted to offer ’blended mobility‘, allowing students to start their study abroad experience via remote learning, followed by compulsory on-campus participation in classes when health conditions permit in their chosen country. Universities in the regions of Lombardy (of which Milan is the capital) and Lazio (of which Rome is the capital) witnessed a particularly notable increase in Erasmus study abroad applications for the current academic year, with an 8.4 per cent rise in applications in Lombardy (applications were particularly high at the Milan Politecnico, Bocconi University and the Milan State University). At the University of Bergamo, which was a hotspot for the pandemic, Erasmus applications increased by a remarkable 24 per cent. In Lazio, the universities of La Sapienza and LUISS registered the highest number of applications.


  • In 2020, over 100 thousand foreign students enrolled in Russian digital projects offered online by local universities. Students, schoolchildren and teachers from 46 countries, including from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe, the USA, Latin America and Asia, choose virtual courses, contests and Olympiads. In total 27 projects were supported by Rossotrudnichestvo (Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation) within the framework of federal projects "Human Resources for the Digital Economy" and “Export of Education”. Students who completed the courses may qualify for priority admission to Russian universities in future.
  • Moscow Mayor Sobyanin announced about extended autumn school holidays, with schools closed between 5 and 18 October. The measure is the result of increased infection cases in Moscow.
  • Online education and edtech have been widely discussed in Russia, with local stakeholders inviting to join flagship international events to discuss recent trends online. Among forthcoming activities are EdCrunch on Demand 2020, International Conference on New Educational Technologies EdCrunch Tomsk, eSTARS 2020.


  • Two Bratislava-based universities, Comenius University (UK) and the Slovak Technical University (STU), will switch to remote education as of 5 October due to the worsening situation concerning coronavirus. Slovak government declared state of emergency on 1 October in response to the rise of new cases. It is not expected to last more than 90 days.

South Asia


  • British council and Pearson have started their English language tests — IELTS in Bangladesh and English test in India respectively to ensure potential international students can continue with their applications to foreign universities. This is a positive update for Australian universities which are engaging potential international students.
  • Udemy, an Indian edtech organisation, has reported in a skills gap report that 76 per cent of Indian professionals feel affected by a skills gap arising from isolation in response to COVID-19, and a technological impact from distance learning, prompting a willingness to learn new skills. This opens up an opportunity for Australian institutions to build their engagement with the Indian corporate sector, to deliver professional training solutions.
  • Byju’s, an Indian edtech unicorn is looking to expand its operations in Australia to launch a digital learning application for the K-12 segment. Australian institutions and edtech companies interested in developing business in India are advised to engage with Byju’s as partners to scale up their products in India.
  • Austrade has launched a ‘Study Australia Video competition’ for classes of 9-12 school students in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The competition will position Australia as a COVID-safe and high quality study destination to potential students, parents, career counsellors and teachers to support Australian universities’ recruitment activities for under-graduate programs. Austrade has partnered with five Australian universities, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia, the University of Queensland, the University of Wollongong and Macquarie University; while Allianz Global Assistance, NIB Health Funds and Synapse Medical Services are supporting this competition as sponsors.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • With the Canadian announcement of opening borders to take effect from 20 October, for international students to enter (if their designated learning institutions has been approved by their province or territory) has gained immediate interest among the students living in the UAE who are willing to travel abroad for studies. In this COVID-19 pandemic, the UK and Canada have emerged as popular destinations for students living in the UAE.
  • COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the education sector particularly K-12 in the UAE. With the commencement of new academic year in September, the enrolments in affordable mid-tier schools have increased as parents are looking for reasonable study options. Schools had to lower their fees to either retain their current students or increase their new admissions. The reduction in fees is impacting cash flows and overall income of schools to undertake new education initiatives.

South Africa

  • The Minister of Basic Education congratulated schools with the safe and successful resumption of the school year, the sector has managed to observe all necessary protocols to return to school without increased COVID-19 infections. Schools maintain rotation schedules to limit numbers. Numerous e-learning programs and platforms are available on the website of the Department of Basic Education to support parents and learners, especially for days when learners are at home. The National Senior Certificate (NSC) Year 12 exams will take place from 5 November to 15 December 2020.
  • South African borders reopened on 1 October for travellers from African countries and other international business travellers. Leisure travellers from countries with lower infection and transmission rates of COVID-19 will be allowed.


  • Mauritius is one of the few markets in the region where the government regulates the industry and ensures that education agents are monitored and registered. The Ministry of Education published a reminder communiqué that prospective students should ensure programmes and courses are recognised in Mauritius and that recruiting agents for overseas education providers are registered with the Ministry.

North Asia


  • Effective from 28 September 2020, foreign nationals holding valid Chinese residence permits for work, personal matters and reunion are allowed to enter China with no need to apply for new visas. If the above three categories of residence permits held by foreign nationals expired after 28 March 2020, the holders may apply for relevant visas by presenting their expired residence permits and relevant materials to the Chinese embassies or consulates on the condition that the purpose of the holders’ visit to China remains unchanged. Other measures in the Announcement issued on 26 March will continue to be implemented.
  • China’s Ministry of Education has recently announced it will stop issuing the ‘Certification for Returned Overseas Students’, with the aim of simplifying procedures for returning overseas students. Education sections of Chinese Embassies in foreign countries will stop accepting applications from 1 November 2020.
  • 74 Chinese students boarded a Hainan Airlines charter flight from Chongqing to Manchester in the UK on 21 September, to resume their overseas study, which had been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. It was the first charter flight operated by a Chinese airline to carry Chinese students back to a foreign study destination since the beginning of the pandemic. Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport and Hainan Airlines made special arrangements for students who joined the flight by way of transfer from other destinations in China, including free luggage storage and free meals and lodging. Students joining the flight were contacted directly for ticket purchases by the Airline based on lists provided by UK education providers. Over the next two months, approximately 20,000 Chinese students from all over China are expected fly on Hainan Airlines from Chongqing to Manchester or Bristol in the UK to resume their studies.

North America


  • Higher Education Strategy Associates’ “State of Postsecondary Education in Canada 2020” report has identified Canadian universities and colleges that could be vulnerable to an “international student recession” caused by COVID-19, noting several institutions are already operating “in the red” despite having international student enrolments of 20 per cent or higher.

United States

Government response
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s report on the country’s COVID-19 efforts showed the following insights for K-12 schools
    • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidance on screening children and employees entering K-12 schools has been internally inconsistent.
    • CDC and the Secretary of Education have both noted that school reopening plans should be tailored to the needs of local communities. Many school districts developed hybrid plans that call for students to learn remotely for part of the time, while others moved to remote-only learning. Yet, CDC’s updated July guidance begins with a statement urging schools to reopen in person, and information encouraging schools to reopen in person is embedded throughout the guidance.
    • The lack of cogent, clear, and consistent federal guidance on reassessing the operating status of K-12 schools is an area of concern. The Education Stabilization Fund provides emergency funding to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on education. Education quickly obligated the vast majority of these funds by May 31, 2020. Of the approximately $31 billion appropriated to the ESF, approximately $17 billion was appropriated to provide aid to states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico across two emergency relief funds—the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund) and the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER Fund)—as well as through the ESF discretionary grants and formula grants to other U.S. territories. Educational institutions may also be eligible for other types of federal financial assistance under COVID-19 relief laws. For example, as of August 9, 2020, over 15,000 charter and private schools received at least $5.9 billion in federal loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
  • The US Department of Homeland Security is proposing changes to visas which would see academic students (F) and exchange visitors (J) admitted into the US for a “fixed time period”.
  • The US Department of Labor released their monthly statistics, showing that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for college tuition and fees saw a significant decline from July to August, showing the category slid by a seasonally adjusted 0.7 per cent, the biggest drop since 1978.
  • A Hunt Institute and FutureEd analysis of the $3 billion CARES Act discretionary spending showed the top areas of spending for 48 U.S. states were
    • Broadband (36 states);
    • Remote training/curriculum (35 states);
    • Higher education (35 states);
    • Devices (34 states); and
    • Close learning gaps (17 states).
Higher education
  • Insider Higher Ed and Gallup’s 2020 survey of college and university admission directors showed the following insights
    • Student enrolment and recruiting
      • 56 per cent of participants did not meet their new student enrolment goals this year, prior to 1 July 2020.
      • 41 per cent of participants said that campus closures had a moderate impact on recruiting.
      • 72 per cent of participants did not see their college admitting students it probably would not have admitted in previous years.
    • Focus of undergraduate recruitment: These groups are likely to see the biggest change in increasing recruitment efforts for undergraduate applicants from 2019:
      • Online students +11 per cent YoY (to 62 per cent);
      • First-generation college students +8 per cent (to 76 per cent); and
      • Students older than 24 +8 per cent (to 59 per cent).
    • Coronavirus response and autumn semester planning
      • 31 per cent of participants said that their admissions office were prepared to respond to the coronavirus pandemic
      • 55 per cent of participants said that their college will employ a hybrid approach in which some students will be on campus and the rest will do remote learning/take online classes
  • A survey conducted by EDUCAUSE showed that
    • 59 per cent of participants were focused on hybrid teaching and learning options to support both campus-based and online education.
    • 63 per cent of participants experienced the COVID-related event of students/staff/faculty being quarantined but continued campus operations.
    • 87 per cent of participants were well prepared for September intakes.
    • 83 per cent of participants focused on improving the use of instructional tools to prepare for the September semester.
  • A survey conducted by Digital Promise highlighted the top 5 highest priority challenges facing classroom teachers, school leaders, district leaders and other educational professionals:
    1. Student engagement (ranked as the number 3 priority in 2019);
    2. Teaching with technology (ranked as the number 7 priority in 2019);
    3. Opportunity gaps (ranked as the number 9 priority in 2019);
    4. Technology access (ranked as the number 34 priority in 2019, making the biggest movement in 2020); and
    5. Mental health and trauma (ranked as the number 1 priority in 2019).
  • A survey conducted by Hart Research Associates with parents and teachers of public school teachers showed that a third of teachers were more likely to exit the profession or opt for early retirement due to the pandemic.
  • A survey conducted by Common Sense Media showed that 40 per cent of teenagers said that online learning is worse than in-person schooling.
  • A study conducted by Bellwether Education Partners and Teach for America on school districts response to COVID-19 saw promising practices through
    • Providing human capital support and adjustments;
    • Innovating instructional content and approaches;
    • Servicing special student populations;
    • Big-picture planning and establishing core principles;
    • Designing data-intensive approaches;
    • Focusing on social-emotional learning;
    • Creating supportive school-student connections; and
    • Building relationships with families and community.
  • A survey by the Center for American Progress showed that millennial mothers are nearly three times more likely than millennial fathers to report being unable to work due to a school or child care closure.

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