Login to the MIP Subscribe

Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 14 April 2020)

15 Apr 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:

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

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 550,000 and 24,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • Recruitment in Canada has moved to offering virtual fairs. The first online experience will take place 21 May, 2020.
  • Canadian post-secondary institutions have moved to virtual and online delivery of classes. The current concern is final exams and many universities and colleges are coming up with alternate final exam methods so students are able to finish the semester. For instance, one college is requiring final reports as opposed to supervised final exams.

United States of America

  • 17 states and 2 U.S. territories have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year.
  • It is reported that international students could lose confidence in the US as a destination for higher education if it fails to contain the virus
  • This follows China’s current travel restrictions to and from the US, which account for one-third of US institutions’ international enrolment.
  • Endowments are suffering as well, as investment income makes up 9 per cent of revenue at private universities and 2.5 per cent at public institutions.
  • This follows the Hechinger Report last month, which noted that roughly 75 per cent of the $630 billion of endowment funds at U.S. institutions are invested in stocks, whose value has plunged since the pandemic's onset.
  • US Colleges no longer have to give ongoing updates about the coronavirus pandemic or proactively track down cases within their campus community to comply with the Clery Act.
  • Previously, to satisfy the Clery Act, institutions had to notify students and employees about COVID-19, the respiratory illness the virus causes, through their alert systems.
  • A survey by Common Sense Media, found that as schools across the country have transitioned to some form of online learning, 41 per cent of teenagers say they have notattended a single online or virtual class.
  • A survey by research firm SimpsonScarborough, saw 10 per cent of surveyed high school seniors who had planned to go to a four-year college prior to the coronavirus are likely to change their direction as a result of the outbreak.
  • US Department of Education announced that states can apply for flexibility in using parts of Title I, II, III, IV and V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
  • An education advocacy group, National Council for Online Education, has been created to advocate for online and digital education within higher education policy and thought leadership.
  • This is a partnership between the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Quality Matters (QM), University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).
  • HolonIQ identified that the US made up 33 per cent, or $9.5b, of last decade’s edtech VC funding, after China who made up 52 per cent.


  • While the incidence of COVID-19 is still increasing across Europe, some countries are starting to see a flattening in the number of cases. 
  • Lockdowns have been extended in many countries, however several countries are starting to gradually ease, with a limited number of restrictions.
  • There is growing debate about exit strategies and how best to structure the phased easing of restrictions should the rate of infection consistently decrease.
  • There are significant concerns about a second-wave of infections should restrictions be eased too soon and too broadly.
  • The European Union (EU) has further extended the closure of the EU’s external borders to all non-EU nationals until at least 15 May.

Czech Republic

  • The Faculty of Life Sciences of the Charles University in Prague and the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Academy of Sciences have been granted AUD $440,000 by IOCB Tech (a daughter company of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry focusing on technology transfer) to enhance new methods of testing SARS-CoV-2 and expand testing capacities.


  • Germany’s two major funding bodies for research and international academic cooperation, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), are adapting their funding guidelines to mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on science.
  • DFG has extended its deadlines and scientists can be funded later than planned in the project proposals.
  • DAAD plans to find flexible solutions for approved projects with its member universities. Planned projects should be postponed or carried out virtually.
  • Current DAAD Scholarship holders will receive continued financial support from DAAD regardless of whether they stay at their host university or return to their country of origin. However DAAD has cancelled individual scholarships for studying in Germany for the summer semester 2020.


  • Given Italy’s total lockdown, which has now been extended to 3 May, a number of agents are running online recruitment activities and initiatives in order to capture future interest.
  • These activities range from presentations via web-conferencing software, online consultations, digital study orientation activities and similar.
  • The Minister for Universities has proposed 5,000 additional local university scholarships for Italian students to undertake medical specialisations at Italian universities in order to help guarantee availability of medical staff in future areas of critical need.


  • Following the recommendations of international providers and border authorities, the Bolashak scholarship committee has confirmed they will postpone sending students abroad.


  • The Norwegian government will provide A$160 million to domestic students that have lost part time employment income.
  • Students will be able to access an A$4,000 extra scholarship from April.
  • Thirty per cent of this amount will be a grant, the remainder will be added to their student loan.


  • The Russian Ministry of Education announced the date for the Unified State Exam (the secondary school graduation exam) will be deferred from 25 May to 8 June, which will cause delays with the issuance of school certificates.
  • The Ministry of Education and Science has recommended that universities reduce or cancel accommodation fees for students living in dormitories until the COVID-19 situation settles down.


  • In England and Wales the A Level exam has been cancelled this summer.
  • Instead, student performance will be measured via teacher assessments and predicted grades.
  • Consideration is being given to an exam in September for students who are dissatisfied with the assessments they receive through this process.
  • Observers suggest that with the highest proportion of annual new international enrolments in higher education, the UK is more exposed than other major study destinations including the United States, Germany or Australia.
  • Data from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for 2018-19 shows that around 250,000 (56%) of all international students in the UK were new enrolments. This poses particular challenges for UK university finances.

Middle East and Africa

Saudi Arabia

  • A number of Saudi Arabian nationals based in Australia will return to Saudi Arabia after King Salman’s directives on 5 April allowing citizens to return home.
  • Australian Universities will need to ensure they maintain ongoing communication with the Saudi Cultural Mission in Canberra for further updates.
  • New dates for a major education events in Saudi Arabia have been communicated by the Saudi Ministry of Education.
  • The International Conference & Exhibition for Education (ICEE) is scheduled to be held in late October 2020. Further official communication will be announced in the coming weeks.
  • Curfews remain in place until further notice, and schools and university testing will be conducted online. It is expected that University final exams will take place during Ramadan, with the semester to conclude by 28 April 2020.
  • Public schools will commence exams in early-May, with the semester concluding on 14 May 2020. 


  • Universities have continued providing online courses to students. Based on the recent experience with online delivery, the Minister of Higher Education has emphasised the necessity of establishing a comprehensive e-learning network.
  • The Minister wants universities to use e-Learning infrastructure through collective cooperation, avoiding individual solutions.
  • Education agents are still receiving the same level of student applications and have deferred applicants’ commencement for future semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • It has caused disruption in agent services as they are unable to confirm a specific date for their clients around commencement of their studies in Australia.
  • Agents are concerned about when Australian Universities will be able to confirm commencement dates for applicants due to the disruption caused by COVID 19.
  • Iranian students who start their online study with Australian Institutions, whilst still in Iran, are focused how the online study period impacts on their eligibility for the 4-year work permit after their graduation from Australian universities.


  • Agent networks continue to use a range of digital options to drive engagement with their recruitment audiences, linking into student networks in Australia and platforms such as Instagram live to create opportunities to share student experiences of international study.
  • Leading local agent networks expect the next six months to be challenging, with a return to normal/non-pandemic operations in January 2021.
  • Key competitors are using a range of incentives and value propositions for international students. These include offers of free pre-sessional online courses to offer holders (UK, Ireland); and identifying and promoting visa classes that support greater enrolments into high school — for example Canada’s parent visa.

North Asia


  • Encouragingly, Korea’s COVID-19 curve appears to be flattening. 
  • The Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported less than 50 new infections four days in a row since 5 April, bringing the total number of cases to 10,423.
  • The government plans to bring into force a decision to temporarily suspend visa exemptions for countries imposing entry bans on South Koreans.
  • The decision will be applied to 88 countries, including Australia and Canada. The US will not be affected as the country is still allowing South Koreans to enter.
  • Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, the new school year will start a phased introduction of online classes from 9 April with online classes opening for year 9 and year 12 students first. 
  • Universities are offering lectures via online but students have raised concerns about the unsatisfactory quality of lectures
  • Initiatives to promote our tertiary institutions via digital platforms are being developed to replace the cancelled Study in Australia Korea in May. Options include webinars and other digital media platforms. Targets are B2C and B2B.

Hong Kong

  • The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had double-digit increases over the last few weeks, due to a large number of HK residents returning from overseas including international students. It reached 1,010 cases as at 13 April.
  • The Hong Kong Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, has reaffirmed that it aims to start the written exams of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) on 24 April. However, both speaking exams for Chinese and English Language subjects will be cancelled.
  • The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced on 21 March that classes of all schools are suspended until further notice. Health experts predict that it will be difficult for classes to resume prior to the summer holidays.
  • The Hong Kong government has announced the second anti-epidemic fund measures of HK$137.5 billion to help businesses to stay afloat, retain workers in employment and relieve burdens of individuals and business.


  • The National Contagious Disease Centre of Mongolia reported that 16 cases have been confirmed. All cases are imported.
  • Since January 2020, schools and universities have started online classes.
  • The Prime Minister of Mongolia has proposed all school and kindergarten remain closed until 1 September, 2020.


  • Agents reported there has been delay in commission payment by institutions, some small providers have even asked to pay commissions in instalments.
  • Agents are worried this may cause some challenge for them to stay afloat.
  • Agents are concerned with the sustainability of their business if Australia’s travel ban continues into the second semester, as they will be facing potential financial losses from students’ further postponement or cancellation of studies.


  • Wuhan, the hardest-hit city in China since the COVID-19 outbreak, has lifted outbound travel restrictions on 8 April after 76 days of lockdown.
  • Apart from Hubei province, all other provinces and municipalities (including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) in China have now announced dates for the start of the new school semester.
  • Chinese universities have been asked to conduct online teaching for foreign students who cannot return to China due to the country’s entry restrictions.
  • The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has launched a large-scale free online vocational training program for over 5 million people from late March to the end of June, with digital training resources covering over 100 types of jobs.

Latin America


  • Argentina’s Ministry of Education and the National Communications Authority (ENACOM) has announced an agreement with telecommunications companies to enable free access for students to Universities’ learning platforms from their mobiles and free of charge.
  • Buenos Aires, one of Argentina’s largest COVID epicenter, will likely extend the restricted circulation during the next three months.
  • As at 9 April, 14,850 tests were conducted with 13.6 per cent testing positive. 365 have recovered and a total of 71 deaths were reported.
  • 80 Medicine students from Argentina’s best ranked National University (UBA) volunteered to apply flu shots to elderly.


  • On Friday 10 April, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 19,638 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 1,056 deaths.
  • The youngest fatality was a four-day-old newborn in the state of Natal (RN). São Paulo remains the state with the highest number of deaths and confirmed cases.
  • Quarantine period in the country was extended until 22 April. Further announcement will come after this period.
  • These measures continue without flexibility, and were taken to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country. No gatherings of any kind are be allowed.
  • As at 8 April, 63,000 tests were conducted, of which 13,700 tested positive. The plan is to reach 30,000 tests a day.
  • In an ideal scenario, the Ministry of Health aims, to complete 3 million tests in 180 days to identify the spread of the coronavirus within the country.
  • Private company actions have continued to expand to the pastoral care and wellbeing of employees. During this pandemic, mental health and well-being programs are being reinforced.
  • On 7 April, one of the main student fair organizers in the country, FPP, shared details on Virtual Fairs and how they can help education providers to connect with students around the world, from the largest cities to the smallest towns, without leaving their office.


  • The Ministry of Health confirmed that the number of infections reached 2,776 cases. It also reported 109 fatalities and 270 patients recovered.
  • The national government will require health workers to be available for any COVID-19 emergency. This call, issued yesterday in decree 538, is addressed to all human talent in health in practice or training, with some exceptions.
  • The government confirmed this week, the extension of the measure to teach virtual classes in the country's universities until 30 May.
  • In the framework of the State of Economic, Social and Ecological Emergency, President Duque issued Decree 532 which exempts from the requirement of the presentation of the State Examination for admission to undergraduate higher education programs.
  • The national government issued Decree 467, which dictates emergency measures regarding relief for beneficiaries of the Colombian Institute of Educational Credit and Technical Studies Abroad – ICETEX.


  • During the week of 6-10 April, education institutions held services for the Easter weekend. Some institutions used this time to review online offerings (content, educational approach) they are delivering.
  • The National University (UNAM) and the National Polytechnic (IPN) have asked all medicine students in their final year, to stop working in public hospitals as a consequence of health protection conditions to prevent infection with COVID-19.
  • The official number of persons infected with COVID-19 is now 3181, and 174 deceased.
  • The Under Secretary of Health estimates that the real figure could be of up to 26,000 infected.


  • The Ministry of Health has declared 7,519 COVID-19 patients to date. 815 people are in intensive care with 193 deaths reported.
  • The Government estimates that the peak of the wave will be 19 April.
  • Curfew hours have been extended starting at 6pm and ending at 5am.
  • A presidential decree was issued to control people movement. Just one person per family can go to supermarkets, banks and pharmacies from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday nobody circulates and absolutely everything will be closed.
  • All public schools in the country have started classes remotely using online platforms, television and radio for the most remote cases.
  • Private universities have contacted Austrade requesting video conferences on different topics to transmit to their students or teachers.
  • The Peruvian Network for the Internationalization of Higher Education (15 Universities both public and private) have asked Austrade staff in Peru to put them in contact with Australian counterparts to explore Post COVID-19 internationalization strategies.
  • The National Superintendent of Higher Education has asked for further information and to contact TEQSA to learn from good practices.
  • Public universities have decided to start the class period through online and remote platforms.
  • in the last 2 weeks, 100,000 teachers have taken a 15-hour course on how to teach and modify their classes for an online or virtual platform. This course is expected to be taken by 200,000 teachers across the country.

South Asia


  • The government has extended the nationwide lockdown by three days to 14 April in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All schools and education institutions will follow the government order.
  • The Australian High Commission in Bangladesh has arranged a non-scheduled commercial flight to take back the Australians currently in Bangladesh.
  • About 60 per cent of the private universities in Bangladesh are holding online classes to keep academic activities on track, however if the lockdown remains the online sector is set for unprecedented growth.


  • PM Modi has indicated the 21 day lockdown is likely to be extended and the national emergency may require tough measures to enforce social distancing.
  • A few zones with large numbers of COVID-19 cases have been sealed in some parts of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
  • In view of the prevailing circumstances, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has advised all schools affiliated to the board as a one-time measure to promote students studying in Grades 1 through 8 to the next grade.
  • For grades 9 and 10, schools are advised to promote students to next grade based on school based assessments conducted so far.
  • With regard to rescheduling board examinations for grades 10 to 12, a decision is pending. The Board will give notice of about 10 days to all stakeholders before starting the Board examinations.
  • The Government of India and state governments, along with science and technical institutions, are working on various solutions to combat the virus.
  • The Department of Science and Technology-Science and Engineering Board (DST-SERB) has announced special research projects to build up national R&D efforts against the epidemic.
  • Medical colleges in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu have become designated COVID hospitals. The government has recently directed that patients should be referred to these hospitals as soon as laboratory results confirm that they have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Edtech companies are witnessing a surge in demand due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The start-ups in turn have capitalised on the moment and have started launching marketing campaigns.
  • Some of the edtech companies in India have stepped up in this situation by offering free online classes or attractive discounts on e-learning modules. Well-known companies like Byju’s and Unacademy are offering classes for free until the situation improves.
  • This situation will facilitate digital learning across varied geographies in India.
  • Australian organisations who have the capability to support can reach out to Austrade to connect with stakeholders on the ground to support during the crisis.

Sri Lanka

  • Total number of cases 190, recovered 50, deaths 7. Average of patients for last week has been around 2-3 which a positive sign in managing the situation in Sri Lanka.
  • It’s important to note that roots have been identified for all cases found in Sri Lanka.
  • Curfew and lockdown is extended until 14 April.
  • With the increase in the number of cases in neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka Navy has taken to strengthen the security of the territorial seas of Sri Lanka.
  • The government of Sri Lanka has banned outward foreign investments to prevent the further fall of Sri Lankan rupee.
  • European Union (EU) has provided a €22m grant to Sri Lanka that will target health, agriculture and tourism.

If you have questions, please contact the offices in market who can direct and assist in your enquiry. You can view Austrade office locations on our website.

Our market profiles can help you research, discover opportunities and learn about recent developments.

View market profiles