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

15 Jul 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
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • Latin America
  • North America
  • South Asia



  • The Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud), will launch a special emergency curriculum for the COVID-19 period, especially for students who do not have internet access or devices suitable for distance learning (Pembelajaran Jarak Jauh). The module will be given first to primary school students, then junior high and senior high school students. The modules are created to encourage and facilitate independent study (without the presence of teachers). The Ministry is also preparing digital training modules for teachers to help them become more innovative in teaching.
  • A survey conducted by Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) reveals that 90 percent of students prefer to study face to face rather than online. Students suggested online learning was ineffective, with some citing internet connection issues, and that teachers were giving students an increased workload. The survey was conducted with 37,193 students in 32 provinces, and the majority of respondents were college who enrolled between 2015 and 2019. Indonesia continues to intensify the adoption of online learning particularly during COVID-19.


  • On 8 July, the Ministry of Higher Education announced the inclusion of additional categories to the previous five categories of students allowed back on higher education campuses starting July until October 2020. These include:
    • Students at any stage of undergraduate or postgraduate study who require access to internet, special equipment and laboratory / workshop / studio.
    • International students enrolled in both public universities and private institutions, including new students
    • Student activities are allowed with the condition that they do not exceed 250 persons and are subject to stringent venue requirements, and social distancing.
  • The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) requested the Ministry allow only 30 per cent of private institutions to reopen campuses from July. This provides time for some institutions to incorporate necessary changes to campus to comply with the standard operating procedure as well as the flexibility to remain fully online.
  • The Ministry also announced the new semester for higher education will start in October whereby all institutions will be able to operate at full capacity. The Ministry has requested all enrolments (local and international) to be concluded by start of October. Ministry has also stipulated that all new student registration and orientation programs are made available online regardless of campus reopening.
  • International students are allowed to enter Malaysia subject to their home country travel restrictions and availability of flights. Registration with Education Malaysia Global Services is required before being granted entry into Malaysia by the Malaysian Immigration Department. Students must undergo COVID-19 testing within three days of entering Malaysia. They will also be required to undergo a health screening at the airport as well as undergo a 14-day quarantine at a location designated by their respective higher education institution.
  • In light of the drop in foreign student enrolment this year (roughly 84%, a loss of AUD $2.32 billion), a national taskforce has been formed to mitigate challenges faced by the private higher education sector in Malaysia. Helmed by the Ministry of Higher Education, this national response is line with the recent priority set for the sector under the Way Forward for PHEIs: Education as an Industry (2020-2025) framework. With the flexibility offered to higher education institutions in Malaysia to determine the most suitable mode for teaching and learning, digital technology and virtual partnerships will continue to be of interest. Though such interests will remain sporadic in the coming months as the sector finds its footing in the ‘new normal’.


  • To date, Myanmar has 321 confirmed cases with 254 recovered patients. Most of the cases reported have been imported. The State Counsellor urges the public to be more patient and follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health and Sports to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While authorities have eased COVID-19 restrictions, such as allowing some businesses to reopen, it has maintained regulations such as the wearing of face masks in public and the ban on gatherings of five or more people, and the restrictions on international travel until 31 July.
  • During a video conferencing session with construction industry leaders on 4 July, the State Counsellor mentioned the importance of vocational education and its contribution to the country’s development. She also stated that Myanmar is in need of quality vocational institutes to develop human capital, to provide employment opportunities, and would encourage and support the vocational education sector to develop.
  • As a follow-up, on 9 July, Ministry of Education held a video conference with vocational and technological institutes across Myanmar to discuss the challenges and the business continuity plan during and after COVID-19. The Ministry will develop a roadmap to support the vocational sector with input from the vocational institutes and schools across the country.


  • According to the Philippines Department of Education (DepEd), 18.8 million students enrolled this school year in public and private schools and higher education institutions. This is a significant decline from 27.7 million students last year. Over 250,000 students transferred from private to public schools because of financial difficulties amidst the pandemic. DepEd is also upgrading its online learning platform to accommodate more users. DepEd has partnered with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to assist with connectivity, cybersecurity and broadcast (radio and television).
  • The Philippines Commission on Higher Education (CHED) offered free learning materials to college students and faculty through their PHL-CHED Connect website. Over 1300 audiobooks, presentations, videos and open-access books from top Philippine universities can be saved and printed from the website. CHED also included resources from its international partners such as the Australian National University. The website aims to complement distance or flexible learning in the coming school term.
  • CHED announced earlier this month that they will allow medical schools to admit students without taking the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) for academic year 2020-21. NMAT, a nationwide standardised test, had been an entry requirement into medical schools but it could not be rolled out in March due to the pandemic.
  • 13,200 learners applied to the Smarter Philippines through Data Analytics R&D, Training and Adoption Scholarship Program of the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST). It offers free online education to upskill the workforce in the fields of data science, data analytics and AI. DOST accepted 12,900 scholars who were mostly from industry (Business Process Outsourcing sector), academe and government.


  • As of 10 July, Vietnam confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at 369 with no community transmission, in which 347 of the affected patients have recovered.
  • Vietnam has suspended the entry of foreigners from March 22 until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. The measure does not apply to diplomats, officials, foreign investors, experts, and skilled workers.
  • According to the latest World Economic Outlook report on 2020 GDP growth in Vietnam, the International Monetary Fund forecasted to slow at 2.7 percent but remain ahead of other countries in the region, whereas Asian Development Bank and the World Bank went for a more optimistic view with expansions of 4.8 and 4.9 per cent.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training confirmed the high school examination will be held on 9 and 10 August. Local universities and vocational colleges can utilise the exam results for recruitment.
  • On 30 June 2020, The World Bank approved to finance a US$295 million credit for the Vietnam National University Development Project, which will improve teaching and research capacity at Vietnam National University Hanoi, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Danang. Through investments in modern infrastructure, cutting-edge equipment and knowledge transfer, it will help accelerate the transformation of these three universities into regionally competitive institutions with advanced teaching and research capabilities.
  • The ministry will soon finalise the draft of online teaching regulations at schools and education institutions. Once the regulations are in place, online teaching will be recognised as a formal teaching method. This presents opportunities for Australian organisations to share expertise, experience and best practices in delivering technology curriculum in schools.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training is planning to implement the Vietnam National Qualifications Framework (VQF). The objective of the VQF is to have equivalent recognition of Vietnamese qualifications to those of regional and international qualifications. Consequently, Vietnam will become a source of manpower to the world. This will present opportunities for Australian education providers to expand partnership with Vietnam.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) granted of US$4.65 million to Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) to help further its goal of achieving international accreditation. USAID will also help FUV develop executive education and other programs, through which FUV will build partnerships with Vietnam’s technology, manufacturing and service sectors.
  • UK universities are now accepting study applications for 2020-21 from students from all over the world, including Vietnam. UK Visa Application Centres in Vietnam resumed business by end of June after a temporary suspension. The marks an important step in restoring travel and education activities of the Vietnamese community to the UK.


  • While physical mobility is a primary goal of the European Union’s flagship Erasmus+ mobility programme, the European Commission has confirmed that if this is not feasible, virtual mobility will also be possible for the next semester. According to the latest Erasmus+ annual report, more than 850,000 participants undertook Erasmus+ study, training, volunteer, or work placements abroad in 2018 (the latest data available).


  • According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), a record 41 per cent of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to university with numbers rising by 17 per cent during lockdown.
  • Although non-EU applications rose by 10 per cent to just over 89,000, applications from the EU dropped by 2 per cent compared to last year, to just over 49,500. UCAS suggest these figures may change significantly by the start of the new academic year as students reflect on their choices.


  • A new study by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) details the impact of the corona crisis on student mobility in Germany. To this end, DAAD conducted a survey among 268 universities from late April to mid-May 2020. The results confirm that the universities dealt flexibly with the crisis, but also confirm the negative impact on the student exchange. At two thirds of the universities, international students were unable to start or continue their studies in Germany due to the coronavirus situation. Around 80,000 foreign students have left Germany due to the pandemic. Over 90 per cent of the universities supported their students abroad on their return trip.
  • In dealing with the crisis, the DAAD study also shows how the crisis has accelerated the digitisation of German universities – half of the universities moved to virtual teaching only, the other half opted for a mixed model of face-to-face and digital teaching. In addition, 98 per cent of universities enabled their staff to work from home, and almost 90 per cent offered the students virtual consulting hours.


  • Italian universities will offer around 200 new courses in the 2020-21 academic year, increasing the total number of courses available to a record of over 5,000. The new courses offered include a focus on engineering, medicine and biotech.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The Dubai Knowledge Human and Development Authority (KHDA) has issued more than 100 protocols for the reopening of private schools in September 2020. All schools will have to comply with the practices, but they have the independence to implement them according to their own contexts. The schools have to submit ‘readiness reopening plan’ to the KHDA by July 14. The protocols are outlined here: https://www.khda.gov.ae/CMS/WebParts/TextEditor/Documents/Schools-Reopening-Protocol-En.pdf
  • Due to the pandemic and the mode of education shifting to online learning from classroom teaching, the Indian Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has revised the syllabus of classes 9-12 for the academic year 2020-21. The decision of syllabus reduction will also be implemented in the 70+ CBSE-affiliated schools in the UAE.


  • According to local reporting, the Kuwait Ministry of Higher Education is moving towards delaying the launch of foreign scholarship plans for the next academic year due to the unstable nature of COVID-19 worldwide, and given the US Immigration Administration’s decision regarding the possible deportation of students, support studying via online classes only. Reporting indicates that the Ministry is possibly considering alternative study destinations for scholarships.


  • The Pakistan Federal and State Government decided to reopen educational institutions across the country by September 15. The federal government has also decided to allow educational institutes to reschedule examinations that had been delayed since March 2020. The strict standard operation procedures (SOPs) will have to be followed. The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan have already asked higher educational institutes to announce their policies on examinations and admissions. All attempts shall be made to protect the academic calendar.


  • The Ministry of Education has announced that schools are expected to open on 31 August. Between 31 of August and 4 September prep classes will be taking place and the actual term is expected to begin on 5 September 2020.


  • Most academic courses will be provided on virtual platforms in the next Iranian academic year, starting September 2020.
  • Student agents report a trend of deferring applicants’ commencement for another semester due to the COVID-19 limitations. The concern remains among students on assessment of the online studying period as the ‘onshore’ study, to be eligible for 4-year work permit after graduation from Australian universities. Students prefer to defer their applications rather than commencing online courses.


  • All Kenyan primary and secondary schools are scheduled to re-open in January 2021, the initial proposal to re-open in September have been delayed due to rising COVID-19 cases. The 2020 academic calendar will be considered lost, meaning students will be expected to repeat the class they were in this year. The 2020 national examinations scheduled for October/November are to be conducted in 2021.
  • Private primary and secondary schools are in financial distress since they have not had any income in the last 4 months with the closure of schools. The uptake for e-learning has not been well received by parents especially with the Ministry for Education declaring 2020 a lost academic year. Some indicate that they may close down by January 2021. The Kenya Association of Private Schools is currently lobbying for a grant from government to keep them afloat. Closure of private schools will have an unprecedented impact on the education system in Kenya considering how they leverage the public schools. In 2019 there were 16,594 private schools in Kenya which doubled from 7,742 in 2014. Public schools during the same period only increased by only 1,728, to 23, 446 in 2019.
  • Teacher colleges and TVET institutions will be allowed to re-open in September 2020 subject to strict adherence to the Ministry of Health COVID-19 protocols. Re-opening of universities for face to face sessions will be on a case by case basis, but are encouraged to continue holding virtual learning which most private and public universities have taken up

South Africa

  • On 12 July the President announced new regulations and limitations on movement to curb the spread of the virus. This includes a curfew (9pm – 4am), no socialising, ban on all sales of alcohol and no inter-provincial travel. These announcements have no direct impact on the education sector further to the announcements by the Minister of Higher Education (last week) that:
    • Universities and colleges have started phasing in the first groups of returning students and plan to reintegrate everyone by end-August with due observance of safety and sanitary protocols.
    • To date, 20 universities have welcomed students back onto campuses and residences.
    • The 2020 academic year is expected to be concluded in early 2021 thus the new intake for 2021 will commence later than normal with adjustments to the academic calendar.
  • South African education agents have noted that there is still a keen interest from South Africans to study in Australia, as soon as borders reopen. There is interest in doing online courses in the interim, but the intention is still to travel to Australia to study.


  • Borders are still closed however the tourism and hospitality sector is slowly reopening. Education agents report continued interest in studying in Australia.


  • Nigeria has been included in the expanded US immigration ban, with the United States extending the list of countries whose citizens are, with some exceptions, barred from entering the US on immigrant visas beginning on 22 February 2020. The overall effect of the travel ban will likely be to intensify scrutiny of all citizens from countries on the list, which will potentially make it more difficult for students from the identified countries from obtaining student visas. In early 2019, nearly 16,000 Nigerian students were enrolled in US education institutions.
  • Nigeria’s Federal Government has suspended its decision to reopen unity (federal/public) schools across the country. It has again stopped students of the schools from participating in the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) that were scheduled for August 4 to September 5 and urged state governments that are preparing to reopen schools in August to rescind the decision. There has however been calls for the government to reconsider the decision as it will further create chaos in the public education system.


  • Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service (GES), says Ghana will go ahead with the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) despite Nigeria pulling out. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has indicated its readiness to organise an independent West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for Ghanaian candidates this year.

North Asia


  • According to a survey in the annual Report on Chinese Students’ Overseas Study (《2020中国留学白皮书》) released on the 28 June, the United Kingdom has overtaken the United States for the first time as the most popular destination for Chinese students pursuing overseas study. Australia and Canada tied for the third place in the survey, followed by Japan, Germany and Singapore. The survey, which was undertaken from January to March 2020, with 6,673 students who plan to study overseas and their parents.
  • According to the Shanghai Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, an increasing number of Chinese returning from overseas after completing studies have applied for residency in Shanghai this year to start their careers. In the past decade, more than 180,000 Chinese from regions outside of Shanghai who went abroad to study chose to work or start a business in Shanghai upon returning to China after graduation. The average age of overseas returnees is 27, and the entrepreneurs amongst them have established more than 5,300 start-ups with total registered capital exceeding $800 million.
  • The MoE's Working Committee for the Accreditation of Medical Education (WCAME), the only agency to accredit medical education programs in China, has recently been awarded Recognition Status by the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). As of June 2020, 23 medical education accreditation bodies across the world have been recognised by the WFME, including those in Australia, China, the US, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil.


  • Korea has released Study Australia promotional video: Journey to Study Australia via Austrade’s Study AU Official Youtube. The video has been viewed by 3.3K+ viewers since uploaded on 25 June 2020.
  • Post will continue to seek support for further content from States and Territories and Australian education providers.


  • The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has selected four educational institutions to participate in the official pilot project of EDU-Port, a program aimed at exporting Japanese-style education overseas, mainly to Asian countries. The pilot will include programs to promote digital/online education at schools in Sri Lanka and introduce English learning content used in Japanese elementary schools at teacher training universities in Cambodia. Although the program does not present any specific opportunities for Australian institutions, it does suggest that the Japanese education system is starting to take a more global approach and is becoming more open to collaborating with overseas institutions.
  • MEXT has announced a new initiative to promote online learning at universities by utilising VR and AR. MEXT anticipates that VR/AR will enable students to gain equivalent experiences to on-campus training and experiments even when they are studying remotely. As part of the initiative, universities are also expected to adopt AI to assist in answering questions from students during lectures. MEXT aims to roll out the initiative to universities across Japan in 2021.


  • Under strict guidance of Ministry of Education, the final examination for Year 12 students has been taken. The enrolment to universities is arranged online:

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 3,304,000 and 109,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • Languages Canada has requested that IRCC provide international students with special visas or risk "total devastation" of the language education sector.

United States

  • US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced changes to conditions for international students taking online classes from September 2020, requiring all international students on F−1 and M−1 visas to be enrolled in courses that have some face-to-face component. This reverses a temporary rule introduced in March 2020 in response to COVID−19 that allowed students to take a higher proportion of online classes than normally permitted by their visa conditions. On top of the worsening COVID−19 situation in many US states, these changes are undermining the attractiveness of the US as a study destination, and may have a displacement effect to other markets, potentially including Australia. Universities are now required to certify by 15 July whether they will be fully open, operate on a hybrid model or offer online-only classes.
  • The Alliance for International Exchange believes that this decision will cost the U.S. economy more than $223 million and 7,000 jobs.
  • California, Michigan, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have joined in a lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, accusing the Trump administration of trying to unlawfully divert pandemic relief funds from public schools to private schools.
  • In addition, Harvard and MIT have filed a lawsuit in a Massachusetts court to put a stop on the Administration’s new rule on international student visas, arguing that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 1,075 (+90 WoW) colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with
    • Planning for in-person (57%, -3% WoW)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (29%, +4% WoW)
    • Planning for online (9%, +1 WoW)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (4.3%, -1.7% WoW)
    • Waiting to decide (1.7%, -0.8% WoW)
  • The White House has ramped up pressure for schools to reopen. The push to reopen schools nationwide in fall contradicts health advice which is that local school districts should make the decision on when and how to reopen based on community level coronavirus spread.

South Asia


  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Facebook have partnered to provide online certificate programmes on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country. These subjects aim to prepare secondary school students for the workforce. Facebook is trying to gain a foothold in the Indian market across sectors. The company signed a deal to buy 9.9 percent in Reliance Jio (the telecom unit of Reliance Industries). Social media platforms and market competitors are creating opportunities for training and development. If this is internationalised further, it would be an opportunity for Australian education providers to leverage this platform.
  • The central government has allowed the India colleges and universities to hold the final year examinations for students. End-of-term examinations are compulsory according to University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines. The Indian Higher education institutions will be conducting their final year and final semester exams at the end of September 2020. This is important for Australian universities and their education agents to build, drive and execute their recruitment strategies and define business recovery plans based on revised timelines.
  • Tamil Nadu School Education Minister K.A. Sengottaiyan recently announced that five private television channels have been chosen to telecast online classes, free of cost. Besides the state-owned education channel, the private channels have agreed to telecast the online classes at a scheduled time. Textbooks will be distributed to students to facilitate the conduct of the online classes. The preparatory work is going on and the online classes are scheduled to commence after July 13. Going by the success rate and response in Tamil Nadu state, Australian institutions have a good scope to work in terms of a government level engagement for maximum outreach for continued learning.


  • Education institutions in Bangladesh from now on may operate administrative activities and routine key project works. The recent steps by the government will allow Australian universities to reconnect with local schools and universities with some of their initiatives for study in Australia centre, joint research and student recruitment programs.

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