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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 2 June 2020)

02 Jun 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:

  • Association of South East Asian Nations
  • North America
  • Europe
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • Latin America
  • South Asia

Association of South East Asian Nations


  • The Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC), through the Directorate General of Vocational Education, will begin the “Link and Match” program between vocational education and businesses. The objective is to strengthen the relevance and quality of study programs at vocational and higher education institutions in 2020, with the goal for vocational institutions to produce graduates with skills relevant for future job markets.
  • Higher education institutions have been given added authority and flexibility during the COVID-19 period. The Directorate of Higher Education has issued a letter (Surat Edaran no. 302, 2020) that allows higher education institutions to:
    • Provide an additional semester to students, who would have normally finished their studies
    • Reschedule lab and practical work for students
    • Allow students to adjust their research for thesis work (methods and schedules)
    • Adjust the learning/teaching period of semester two of 2020
    • Monitor the online learning process and assist students with necessary assistance (e.g. logistics, internet connection subsidy). 


  • On 28 May, the government extended the current set of preventive measures until 15 June. For instance, wearing a mask in public will remain compulsory, and the curfew from midnight to 4am remains in force. 
  • The prohibition of gatherings of more than five people is now relaxed. Gatherings are now allowed in most of the business context such as essential services — including in public and private schools — in accordance with Ministry of Health and Sport’s guidelines. 
  • Schools will re-open from 21 July. High schools will be the first to re-open, followed by middle-schools and primary-schools, learning and implementing best practice along the way.
  • With easing of restrictions, agents are now preparing to welcome students for consultations. Education Expos will, however, remain as virtual events and webinar sessions for the time being. 
  • Currently, Australia is more attractive to Myanmar students and parents than US and UK. This is due to the measures Australia has taken during the pandemic and the actions taken to support international students. 


  • The Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) announced on 27 May that all higher education lectures must be conducted purely online until 31 December, with some exceptions. Subject to the deadline of the conditional movement control order (CMCO), the Ministry has listed key dates for five education segments that will be allowed back on-campus for face-to-face teaching and learning: 

Key Dates:

1 July 2020

Admission dates for new students (2020/2021 academic year):

  • Certificate and diploma students in polytechnics and community colleges (public sector);
  • Foundation, certificate, diploma and Bachelor’s Degree students in private sector institutions.

Current Students back on-campus: 

  • Semester/final-year students in Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree students who are required to carry out clinical work, practicals, laboratory work, workshops, work in design studios, or are in need of specialised equipment. 

1 August 2020

Admission dates for new students (2020/2021 academic year): 

  • Foundation and diploma students in public universities.

Current Students back on-campus: 

  • Special needs who participate in the Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) education programme at polytechnics and community colleges, and who need to get face-to-face guidance.

1 October 2020

Admission dates for new students (2020/2021 academic year): 

  • Undergraduate and postgraduate (research) students in public and private universities.


  • The Philippine government has introduced the Balik Probinsya program to encourage Filipinos to leave Manila and return to their provinces in a bid to decongest the capital and support regional growth. The Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will offer scholarships to access customised skills training programs to help returnees increase their employment prospects amidst the pandemic. This includes training in agriculture, hospitality, healthcare, food production and processing, etc.
  • The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) assured parents that they will provide printed module materials for students who do not have access to the internet or digital assets. Only 18 per cent of households in the Philippines have internet connectivity and only 55 per cent have smartphones. As part of DepEd’s Learning Continuity Plan, a non-digital learning delivery option for learners will be available and may include the use of printed learning materials, TV, national and community radio.
  • By the end of 2020, 1.1 million tablets, laptops and computers will be available to public school students (94 per cent of the total public school student population in the Philippines) and 190,574 laptops to public school teachers (only 22 per cent of all public school teachers).
  • According to the Senate Committee on Basic Education Chair Sherwin Gatchalian, only 15 per cent of public school teachers have been trained to deliver alternative modes of education.
  • In a recent Austrade Manila webinar, DepEd confirmed that they are seeking international partners that could assist them with teacher training and development and alternate education delivery (fully online learning, modular learning, blended learning and home-schooling).
  • As of 28 May, Vietnam has had 42 days without any case infected from community. The government has allowed the resumption of all non-essential services with preventive measures except for clubs and karaoke since 8 May. 
  • During COVID-19, many higher education institutions have been proactively investing in online education, purchasing or transferring Learning Management Systems and Learning Content Management System, training lecturers and digitising learning materials. By end of April, there were a total 98 higher education institutions deploying online teaching. Universities will continue to focus on the application of advanced technologies in the management and organisation of training activities while the Ministry of Education and Training will work on building a legal framework to enhance e-learning and development of open learning materials.
  • Vietnam will further accelerate the implementation of Vietnam Qualification Framework in vocational education and training, moving toward Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) among ASEAN countries. On 25 May, the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training called for a meeting, seeking the inputs of VET policy experts on the roll-out of this framework and the ASEAN Qualification Reference Framework in 2020. This will become a new opportunity for Australian VET providers to leverage the MRA for promoting partnerships with Vietnam and ASEAN countries in VET sector. 


  • With several universities planning to continue online learning at least for the start of the new academic year, it is anticipated there will be a focus on ensuring first-year students in particular are well-supported. The objective is to assist them with adapting to the university experience without the usual on-campus learning and interaction, to ensure they continue their studies and avoid an increase in those who abandon their courses.

United Kingdom

  • In partnership with Australian consulting firm Nous Group, the peak body for British universities, Universities UK, has organised a webinar on 4 June to share insights into the Australian higher education sector’s agile response to COVID-19. Vice-chancellors at the University of Sydney and University of Wollongong will bring institutional perspectives on managing the crisis, and a Principal from the Nous Group will share insights into the Australian government’s response.
  • Cambridge University has announced that all lectures will be held online until the summer of 2021. The university indicated that there may be scope for small face-to-face tutorials as long as social distancing protocols apply. The institution has said that the policy will be reviewed if advice on social distancing changes. According to local media, other UK universities are expected to follow suit.


  • To date, German universities have been able to reopen labs, archives and libraries, subject to distancing regulations. The federal and state governments have now reached agreement that further reopening will be permitted, but that most decisions will be taken at the individual state level. While some federal states are now considering what the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) has referred to as “a very broad and rapid resumption of classroom teaching at universities” (no timelines have yet been announced), the HRK has strongly warned against any “rushed and untenable resumption of classroom teaching at universities in Germany”.


  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) considers the portal ‘I learn at home‘, a successful model, launched during the COVID-19 crisis by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Professional Training (MEFP) in collaboration with the national Spanish Television (RTVE). The main objective of the portal, launched on 23 March, has been to "make quality material available to teachers, families and Spanish students" to maintain teaching, despite confinement.


  • While Italian universities are currently aiming to facilitate a return to campus for the first semester of the new academic year in September, a number are likely to commence with a “blended” approach, particularly larger universities that have a need to accommodate more students.
  • In light of the prospect of decreased domestic enrolments, the national and regional governments are examining a range of options to help support local students, including fee adjustments and increased access to funding support.


  • According to the Minister of Science and Higher Education, some 410,000 graduates of Russian universities will enter the labour market this year, including 267,000 undergraduate students. There is concern that Bachelor graduates may face difficulties in finding employment. Traditional high demand remains for medical and teaching staff, and digital technologies specialists, which together account for over 110,000 under- and postgraduates this year.
  • From June, the operation of scientific organisations will depend on the epidemiological situation. The Minister of Science and Higher Education recommended to consider shifting major international scientific conferences from 2021 to 2022. According to Minister Falkov, in the near future a working group will be created in the Ministry, which will focus on developing new standards for scientific organisations.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted multiple industries in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) particularly small to medium size enterprises (SME) sector. This impact has resulted in firms laying off staff to cut cost and save cash-flow. With some UAE parents experiencing layoffs or facing financial issues, parents are now looking for in-market reasonable study options to continue education. Such decisions are likely affect the student enrolment numbers for the September 2020 semester in the Australian university campuses located in the UAE, and the ability of parents to fund international study in the short to medium term.
  • Due to COVID-19, schools in the UAE had to create and deploy online learning curriculum over the course of few weeks to continue education without any disruption to the current academic year. Along with managing parents and students expectations of online learning, the schools sector is under immense pressure to offer a balance of live and pre-recorded sessions to continue online education and finish studies prior to closing for two months summer break on 2 July 2020. On re-opening of schools in September, the educational authorities have not yet clarified whether students will be required to continue e-learning from home or to return to school premises.


  • Kuwait has evacuated about 50,000 nationals from 53 countries in 19 days. The evacuation included students and it is estimated that around 70 per cent of the international students are now back in Kuwait (this includes students studying in Australia).


  • A preliminary report from the committee formed by the Ministry of Education has recommend that schools remain closed until September and national exams scheduled for October/ November being pushed to February 2021.
  • Most public universities have cancelled or postponed their examinations while private universities who have an edge in Information technology infrastructure are going ahead with examinations without disrupting academic calendars. Some private universities have established partnerships with telecommunication companies for the provision of internet connections for their students (at university cost) during the examination period. The internet data provided is whitelisted to education websites only. Discounts on fees have also been offered to students who did not own IT equipment to enable them to purchase the required equipment. These are some of the measures that local private institutions are taking to continue with virtual learning.


  • Ghana will begin a phased approach in easing of restrictions from 5 June 2020. Under phase one, schools to reopen on 15 June for final year students of universities, 22 June for senior high schools and 29 June for junior high schools to resume classes ahead of their exams. All other educational facilities, private and public for non-final year students will remain closed.

North Asia


  • The gross enrolment rate in Chinese higher education reached 51.6 per cent in 2019, with over 40 million students now studying in colleges and universities after leaving senior secondary school. The country had 2,688 colleges and universities last year, 25 more than the previous year.
  • A number of "schools for future technologies" will be established in key China's universities. The move aims to build the schools into key sites capable of leading future technological development and cultivating inter-disciplinary and innovative talents.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) announced that the current practice of one passenger flight per country per week per airline will be extended to 30 June 2020. China Eastern, China Southern and Xiamen Airlines will continue to operate one passenger flight per week to Sydney from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen respectively.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) announced it would increase the maximum number of inbound international flights from the current limit of 134 flights per week (based on one flight per country per week for airlines that were operating in the week of 12 March) to 407 flights per week from 1 June.


  • Despite new COVID−19 cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area, the second phase of physical openings of schools has continued from 27 May. Approximately 838 schools remain closed out of a total of 20,902. A total of 2.81 million students (or around 47 per cent of the overall total) are back at school.
  • Austrade Seoul will run two online Study Australia public seminars on 15 and 17 June aimed at prospective students preparing to study abroad in 2021.


  • With the state of emergency lifted in all but five prefectures and anticipated to be lifted entirely on 25 May, schools across the country have gradually started to reopen. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has advised schools to prioritise students in their final years of elementary, junior and senior high (Year 6, Year 9 and Year 12) for return to face to face classes. For students in other grades, MEXT will introduce special measures to compensate their study delays by 2022. The Cabinet Office's Economic and Fiscal Advisory Council suggested a number of new measures to assist students, including offering flexible supplementary lessons during the summer holidays to help them catch up with the curriculum, and postponing entrance examinations.
  • Education agents are working proactively to reach new students online. Ryugaku Journal held an Online Ryugaku Seminar on 24 May as a replacement for their physical fair. ICC offers an Online High School Preparation course targeting high school students who postponed their study abroad at Australian high schools. For Australian education providers, partnering with these education agents and being proactive online is one of the most effective ways to maximise exposure and reach prospective students in Japan during the international travel restrictions.
  • The Ministry of Education (MEXT) is promoting the active use of ICT for students studying at home, with the first supplementary budget for Fiscal Year 2020 including funds to provide each public school student with a personal digital device (i.e. a tablet) to support online studies.

Latin America


  • On Friday 29 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 438,238 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 26,724 deaths. There is still not a clear understanding of when COVID-19 is likely to peak in Brazil. Some analysts and government officials suggest we could see peak infections in June, others indicate July or later.
  • The government of São Paulo state will begin the gradual reopening of Brazil’s biggest economy from 1 June, but stricter isolation measures may be adopted if the COVID-19 situation worsens. In terms of education institutions at all levels, it is still to be defined.
  • A group of graduate students from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of the University of Sao Paulo, the leading public university in the country, has launched the “COVID Verificado” app, with the goal of fast-checking information related to the coronavirus pandemic and debunking fake news.
  • FPP EduMedia, one of the main student fair organizers globally, has surveyed over 24,000 students throughout Africa, India and Latin America to better understand how COVID-19 has affected students’ plans to study abroad. Key findings include: students in Brazil have been most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, with just 24 per cent saying their plans have not been affected; throughout the region there is little interest in taking an online program; students throughout LATAM responded positively to the concept of a virtual event; and the majority of students say that they still plan to study abroad, even if they have to postpone their start date.


  • Social, compulsory and preventive distancing is still ruling in Argentina until 7 June.
  • As at 29 May, 14,702 cases were recorded with 510 deaths.
  • The Ministry of Education announced this week that the return to classrooms (August/September) will be staggered, as not every student will not be able to return to class at the same time.
  • The Ministry of Education has started working with the Ministry of Tourism, to find a solution for the 140 thousand students, whose graduation trips have been affected by the pandemic (being at their last year in high school), to see whether September would be a feasible option.


  • On Thursday 28 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 81,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 9,044 deaths. The lock-down will end on 1 June progressively, following a four color traffic light status system: red, orange, yellow and green.
  • The Minister of Education Esteban Moctezuma declared that the back to school will occur only when the national traffic light status is green.
  • In order to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, on 27 May the federal government implemented a reduction of 75 per cent to the budget of the main public research institutions CONACYT, CIDE and CINVESTAV. The cut will be valid for the rest of 2020.
  • A survey conducted by FPP EduMedia to find out the impact of COVID-19 in the intentions to study abroad, around 30 per cent of the Mexican participants confirmed their plans to study abroad. 87 per cent like the idea of attending virtual fairs and around 80 per cent declared they would not replace a face to face program for a digital one. 75 per cent of the students will be looking for more affordable options to study abroad.


  • President Iván Duque announced quarantine in Colombia will extend throughout the month of June. The quarantine that is in force will end on Sunday, 31 May, but it will be tied with the new phase from Monday, 1 June, 2020. This mandatory preventive isolation has 43 exceptions, including the reopening of new sectors of the economy. As of 1 September, international flights will be reactivated in the country.
  • On Sunday 31 May, the Ministry of Health released its new report of coronavirus cases in the country: there are 1,147 new cases of contagion, for a total of 29,383, and 49 new deaths were reported, reaching 939.


  • The Ministry of Health has declared 141,000 COVID-19 patients to date. 943 people in intensive care and 4,099 deaths until today.
  • 28 Australian universities have been recognized by the Peruvian National Superintendence of Higher Education (SUNEDU) as high-quality universities, therefore SUNEDU recognizes degrees issued by those universities. Peruvian students graduated from any of those 28 universities through a simple administrative procedure could obtain their degree recognition.
  • Last Wednesday TEQSA, sent the last collaboration MoU draft to be signed with SUNEDU. Through this document TEQSA will be able to share its good practices and benchmark to SUNEDU.
  • FPP EduMedia, a well-known fair organiser, has surveyed students form all around the world including prospective students from Latin America to better understand how COVID-19 has affected students’ plans to study abroad. For Peru the sample was 2,000 students. 38 per cent of these students stated that they have no intention to change plans, and as soon as possible, they still intend to go abroad to study. 42 per cent of students will postpone their studies, 25 per cent have considered doing an online program instead of studying abroad, but 75 per cent still plan to go abroad even if they need to postpone it.


  • On Sunday 31 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 4,830 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Chile, increasing the total number of cases to 99,688, with a total number of deaths of 1,054. It is expected that the following week will bring the peak of COVID-19 infection in Santiago, which currently has 58 per cent of the cases and is in total lockdown until Friday 5 June.
  • It is expected that classes for Schools and Universities will not return until September.
  • Chile’s newly created Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation with the Chilean Development Agency (CORFO) announced this week a new Acceleration programmed called “Startup Science” which seeks to support, expand and make visible the scientific and technological based entrepreneurship in Chile. The call will be open until 14 July, and will finance projects for up to USD 275K that are based on highly sophisticated technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, advanced materials, artificial intelligence, internet of things and augmented reality.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 1,731,000 and 90,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

United States

  • The US Department of Education says it will not enforce previous guidance limiting which students can receive federal emergency grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
  • A survey by NAFSA of US-based higher education institutions saw a $1 billion loss due to shortened or cancelled study abroad programs, $638 million in financial support for international students, scholars, faculty and staff and at least $3 billion due to anticipated international student enrolment declines in 2020.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 800 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with:
    • Planning for in-person (65 per cent, -2 per cent)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (11 per cent, no change)
    • Waiting to decide (9 per cent -1 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (8 per cent, +2 per cent)
    • Planning for online (7 per cent, +2 per cent) (28/5)
  • A survey by American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the American Council on Education saw 20 per cent of US college students are uncertain about their plans for re-enrolling in the fall, or definitely are not going at all.
  • This also follows the prediction by Simpson Scarborough which saw their April replication of their National Student Survey see a similar 20 per cent decline in enrolment of 4-year colleges and universities.
  • A survey by RAND Corp on teachers and student leaders saw more than 75 per cent of principals say they expect student achievement in their schools to be somewhat or much lower than it was in the fall of 2019, and almost 70 per cent of teachers say addressing achievement gaps will become a higher priority next school year.

South Asia


  • India has announced a phased unlocking of the coronavirus nationwide lockdown. The Central government has extended the lockdown until 30 June in containment zones and decided to open all activities in non-containment zones in a phased manner.
  • The Union Human Resource Development Minister, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal, announced that schools may reopen post board exams for grade 10 and 12 scheduled to be held in July.
  • Classes are to be conducted on rotational shift basis in order to accommodate all the students. There is an opportunity for Australian education providers in the blended learning space once schools reopen.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) has shared a list of 82 Under Graduate and 42 Post Graduate Non-Engineering MOOCs courses with University Vice Chancellors and College Principals, which will be offered in July Semester 2020 on the SWAYAM Platform. Indian students can avail credits by completing these courses as per UGC’s present regulations for online learning courses. Austrade is exploring opportunities for Australian education providers to offer MOOC or online programs in India.
  • The Government of India’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), is a flagship initiative promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. An initiative under AIM, Atal Tinkering Lab (ATL) has a vision ‘Cultivate one Million children in India as Neoteric Innovators’, in schools across India. Given the COVID-19 crisis globally, Atal Tinkers Lab (ATL) is actively involved in nurturing young talent. It provides a range of opportunities for Australian universities and schools to collaborate with the ATL schools for digital mentorship, internship prospects and branding Australian expertise as a choice for higher education and research.


  • Bangladesh is undergoing a radical change with the ongoing adaptation of digital education technology (EdTech) in learning processes.
  • In recent years, we have seen a growing number of Education start-ups in Bangladesh, delivering services in schools and management, online education, online tutoring platform, online test preparation platforms, after-school programs, and online coding platforms.
  • There is opportunity for Australian companies to offer the best 'made in Australia' technology to match the needs and demand of EdTech products in Bangladesh.
  • There may be opportunities now to connect with top Bangladeshi institutions who could adopt technologies when teaching and travel return to normal.


  • Students bound for Australia, who were to join university this year, continue to wait as the international flights remain suspended.
  • Nepal has banned domestic and international flights until 14 June.
  • Nepalese students remain aspirational in studying abroad, and Australia remains a popular destination, with COVID-19 infections under control.

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.