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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 23 September 2020)

23 Sep 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
  • Latin America
  • North America



  • Indonesia Mengglobal (IM) is a non-profit organisation established to encourage Indonesians to pursue education and careers abroad. The organisation believes Indonesians have the potential to study at world class universities but lack access to information and mentorship with regards to applications and financial assistance. Their website includes information such as school reviews, finding scholarships, applying for internships, working abroad and tips on living and surviving overseas. There is a section dedicated to studying in Australia, which can be found on their website.


  • The UK has gained momentum as a destination for higher education in Malaysia. In a recent announcement, both non-EU and EU students will be able to use the new international student immigration route from 5 October 2020, instead of January 2021, with no limit on the number of visas available. Malaysia remains one of the top five non-EU countries to send students to the UK, with over 19,000 Malaysians pursuing higher studies in the UK last year. Malaysia is also the second-largest recipient of Chevening Awards in ASEAN allowing students to pursue studies through a combination of online and in-person learning. There are currently 17,000 Chevening alumni in Malaysia.  
  • The Malaysian Government announced a revision to a recent travel ban, includes an announcement this week allowing foreign students to return to Malaysia. Students with a valid visa or who have already applied, will be able to enter Malaysia if their respective universities are open for face-to-face teaching. Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), the one-stop centre for international student services, confirmed visa applications from new and existing international students have resumed. It is estimated that almost 13,000 international students from private higher education institutions may have returned to their home countries, with only 1,000 students returning to Malaysia since to continue their studies. 


  • King's College International School Bangkok (KCISB) has officially opened, offering classes from pre-nursery to Year 13 students. The school was established in Thailand under an agreement with the UK based King's College School Wimbledon. This is the third King's school branch in Asia, with two already operating in China. The school is owned by the Saha Group, one of the largest consumer products distributors in Thailand. KCISB is aiming to position itself as producing high academic achieving students interested in attending leading universities in the UK and Thailand. The school currently has the highest tuition fees compared with all other international schools in Thailand.    
  • From 1 October 2020, the US Embassy in Bangkok and the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai will resume routine non-immigrant visa services for all visa categories including student visas. Education agents have advised that this will benefit pending visa applicants who have already submitted student visa applications before or during COVID-19 and have not yet completed their interviews as the final stage of the visa process. The resumption of visa services is unlikely to encourage new students to apply for student visas for the US due to the ongoing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in market.  
  • According to the UK government, from 19 September, Thailand will be added to the list of countries where self-isolation on arrival in the UK will not be required. The view of one education agent in Bangkok is this announcement improves the prospects for Thai students applying to study in UK universities for October 2020 commencements, rather than waiting until next year’s intakes for other countries.  
  • The Thai education agent association, TIECA will host its first virtual study abroad fair in late January 2021. Due to COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the online exhibition will temporarily replace their annual study abroad fair which is usually held in a hotel venue in November. 


  • Australian Visa Application Centres in Vietnam resumed limited operation from 21 September to assist customers with their biometric enrolment for the two subclasses 500–Student and 590–Student Guardian.
  • Vingroup University (VinUni) signed a Memorandum of Agreement with University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in relation to student and academic exchanges and collaboration. As a part of the agreement, VinUni will host the Vietnamese students who have enrolled to study with UTS (both current and new commencements) for one semester of this academic year. It is an innovative solution for UTS students in Vietnam to continue or commence their studies, due to the border closures during the pandemic. This pathway allows the students to engage in both online programs with UTS and face-to-face delivery by VinUni academics. This partnership model presents an opportunity for Australian providers to overcome challenges caused by COVID-19 collaboratively, and to continue delivery of quality Australian education to students in Vietnam. 
  • 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 the 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. 

The Philippines

  • Ayala Group’s APEC Schools have engaged Globe Telecom, to assist with deploying online learning programs in the Philippines. Globe will equip APEC Schools with Google Chrome’s management console to help distribute learning applications and materials to students using their personal Google accounts. The pandemic has highlighted major connectivity challenges faced by the Philippines with the education sector, and local government is struggling to transition to the delivery of online education. Globe Telecom, through its Corporate Social Responsibility program, has been actively supporting workforce development, STEM and literacy in schools.
  • On 16 September 2020, the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched the ASEAN Technical Vocational Education Council during the virtual High-level Ministerial Conference on Human Resources Development for the Changing World of Work, hosted by Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs. The Philippines will chair the first round of meetings from 2020-2022. The Philippines' VET regulator — the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) — proposed the establishment of such a council back in 2017. The aim is to harmonise regional VET initiatives and respond to the changing demands of the labour market. The council is set to be a multi-sectoral/cross-sectoral platform for coordination, research and development which “monitors regional programs that support the advancement of TVET in the region." This presents opportunities for Australian organisations to cooperate with this Council and contribute through knowledge and best practice sharing in support of the development of ASEAN’s VET sector.



  • President Tokayev stated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most students around the world have moved to online learning. The President has asked for a unified educational online platform for distance learning to be developed, to reduce time schoolchildren have been spending in using WhatsApp for education related communication. The Government is also working on regulations for schools, to allow students to return to classes.


  • An announcement from Valery Falkov, the Minister of Science and Higher Education, is allowing entry into Russia for over 25,000 first-year foreign students (from approved entry markets), who will be able to start in the second half of September. The Government is also planning to allow second-year students to return to Russia, depending on the ongoing epidemiologic situation. There are currently more than 130,000 foreign students in Russian universities who remained in the country during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 100,000 waiting for entry permission. Foreign Minister Lavrov said that challenges in allowing students to return to complete studies in Russia should be solved within a month.
  • The Ministry of Science and Higher Education is planning to double scholarship quotas (state-funded places) for foreign students, from 15,000 in 2020 to 30,000 by 2024. The Russian Government scholarships will cover tuition fees, provide a monthly stipend and a dormitory placement.
  • Russian universities have reduced tuition fees to the 2019 fee level to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Study in Russia website, the average cost of living in Russia for a student living in a dormitory is US$300-400 per month.


  • According to the Special Republican Commission, Uzbekistan will open its borders for road, rail and air transport from 1 October 2020 to create favourable conditions for business and the population. Incoming passengers will need to comply with current regulations, while foreign countries are divided into three divisions: “green” (no restrictions), “yellow” and “red” (need to provide negative COVID-19 test results, or take a test on arrival and spend 14 days in isolation).

South Asia


  • 1.35 million Indian students undertook paper-based National entrance exams for undergraduate medicine and dental courses last week. This proportion was 85 per cent of 1.59 million registrations received by the National testing agency, which shows the willingness of Indian students to pursue their career aspirations, despite the pandemic.
  • The National Council of Education Research and Training has released an alternative academic calendar and students learning enhancement guidelines, to support student learning outcomes irrespective of access to digital services in the country, post-pandemic.


  • IDP delivered an Australian virtual education fair, with 2,000+ students engaged with 36 Australian universities and pathway providers. Austrade supported student recruitment for the fair by engaging the English Medium Schools Association of Bangladesh.

Middle East and Africa


  • Most final year university students, including final year senior high school and junior high school students, completed their final exams of West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) and Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) respectively by 18 September 2020.
  • After consultation with relevant stakeholders, the Ghana Education service has decided to resume school for second year Senior and Junior High School students from 5 October to 14 December 2020 to complete their academic year. The remainder of the academic year for all nursery, kindergarten, primary, first year junior and senior high school students have been postponed. The next academic year will resume in January 2021
  • Land and sea borders still remain closed. The West African region began opening up its borders with Ghana and Nigeria resuming international commercial flights from 1 and 5 September respectively, with various protocols and measures in place.


  • Canada, Sweden and Finland are issuing first approvals for student visas, enabling students to start courses online. Biometric tests will be completed when the respective borders open. This practice has made these countries more attractive to Iranian students.


  • The national task force that has been advising the Ministry of Education on response to COVID-19, has advised on moving forward the re-opening dates for schools in Kenya to 19 October 2020. A phased approach has been advised with senior students in both primary and high schools resuming first, the other classes will re-open in November 2020. Depending on the level of preparedness, an alternative approach may be adopted with all students resuming school on 19 October. Teachers are expected to report back to work on 28 September to prepare for the re-opening. An announcement from the Ministry of Education for this plan is expected by 28 September.
  • Final year students scheduled for exams in local universities and those taking courses that require physical engagement have been given the go ahead by the Ministry of Education to re-open from 21 September. Tertiary institutions are also expected to adopt a phased approach to reopening.
  • Kenyan students who held study permits before closing of the Canadian and UK borders started to return back to the two countries this month. Engagement with local education agents indicates positivity on the status of the student recruitment pipeline for Australian universities when borders re-open.


  • Mauritius has announced the phased easing of travel restrictions. As from 1 October 2020, borders will be open to Mauritian nationals, residents and tourists travelling to Mauritius for long stays. Passengers will have to undergo a PCR test five days prior to travel. Upon arrival in Mauritius, a 14-day quarantine will be mandatory at an establishment approved by the authorities. Air Mauritius and Emirates Airlines are scheduling regular flights connecting Mauritius to designated destinations.
  • Students with study visas have been allowed to take up their courses in Canada, France and the UK. No new applications can be submitted for Australia yet, education agents are still continuing with recruitment activities in-market.


  • Public schools in Lagos have adopted a phased protocol for the resumption of physical classes to allow students to adequately revise and prepare for their forthcoming Basic Education Certificate Examination, BECE, organised by the Lagos State Examination Board, and scheduled for 6–12 October 2020.
  • For all other public-school classes — all primary school classes, and JSS 1, JSS 2, and SS 1 —there will be further announcements for resumption of school after all necessary resumption protocols have been put in place, until then public schools are expected to continue their lessons on various distance learning platforms (online, radio, television and WhatsApp), pending the announcement of dates for a physical return to classes.

South Africa

  • South Africa entered Level 1 Lockdown on 21 September, allowing a return to work and ‘new normal’ for most people in the country. Restrictions are in-place, limiting public gatherings to 50 per cent of venue capacity and hygiene protocols must be observed.
  • International travel will resume on 1 October, through the three major international airports and a number of land border crossings. All international arrivals must have a negative COVID-19 test result, not older than 72 hours from departure and all arrivals will be screened. If a person does not have the negative test or displays any symptoms, there will be a mandatory quarantine of 14 days, at their own cost.
  • Travel may be restricted to and from countries that have high infection rates, the list will be regularly updated by the Department of Transport. South African missions abroad will recommence processing visas to enable foreigners to travel to South Africa.
  • Students at schools and universities are still working towards finishing the academic year in time, albeit slightly later than normal, and the sectors have benefited from a number of teacher and learner support programs.
  • Students with study visas have been allowed to take up their courses in Canada, France and the UK. No new applications can be submitted for Australia yet, although education agents are still continuing with recruitment activities in-market.

United Arab Emirates

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the jobs market dynamically in the UAE. The recreation, hospitality and travel sectors have been badly affected, which have impacted professionals in these industries. This has led to an increased uptake in short online courses to upskill and reskill, in order to improve employment prospects. There are opportunities for Australian education providers offering reasonably priced short courses, particularly in the technology area.  
  • Due to the COVID-19 financial fallout, parents have been hit by pay cuts or job losses, resulting in a reduced number of enrolments in schools for the new academic year, which commenced on 30 August 2020. Higher Education enrolments in the UAE have increased, as parents are reluctant to send their children abroad for studies, and are looking for in-market institutions as a preferred option.
  • The UAE Ministry of Education, in partnership with the Frontline Heroes Office, has introduced a special program, named ‘Hayyakum’, to provide frontline healthcare workers’ children a full-scholarship to study in public schools for free, commencing from this academic year up to their high-school graduation. The deadline to submit scholarship applications for this academic year is 30 September 2020.

North Asia


  • China's Ministry of Education (MoE) has rolled out further measures to assist Chinese students who are facing difficulties in studying overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MoE has encouraged domestic universities to enrol qualified Chinese students in select Chinese-foreign joint-institutes and joint-degree programs to provide these students with study opportunities within China, whilst the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the ability of students to travel overseas for study.
  • Under the measures, 90 joint-institutes and joint-degree programs in 19 Chinese provinces and special municipalities have been identified, to expand their enrolment quotas to take on mainland Chinese students who have already obtained acceptance letters from overseas universities to pursue their bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees in the fall semester. 
  • These additional enrolments will be deemed “non-quota” and therefore will not affect standard enrolment quotas. 
  • Eight Chinese-Australian joint-institutes and joint-programs have been identified by the MoE to expand their enrolment quotas under the new measures. 
  • The MoE will work with the Chinese Embassy and Chinese Consulates in Australia, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), and relevant education providers to address queries from Chinese students in relation to the new measures. Further details regarding the new measures are provided in a policy update by DESE on its website.
  • A total of 69 universities participated in the China International Industry Fair, in Shanghai from 15-19 September. Universities such as Tsinghua University, Wuhan University, Fudan University, Osaka City University of Japan, Payap University, and the North-Chiang Mai University of Thailand were among those in attendance. According to the Shanghai Education Commission, the universities showcased 708 innovative achievements covering the fields of epidemic control research, industrial automation, artificial intelligence, intelligent manufacturing systems, and new energy. A special exhibition area dedicated to epidemic control was set up in the exhibition this year to showcase scientific research contributions made by colleges and universities in an effort to control COVID-19.
  • The demand from Chinese families for quality education and their willingness to spend large sums on after-school tutoring has fuelled increasing demand for high-quality talent in the education sector, with recruitment for staff in the online education sector in particular growing significantly this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A report based on a survey of 274,000 graduates from 30 provinces by the education consultancy MyCOS showed that 15.9 per cent of college graduates chose to work in the education sector last year. This was up by 1 percentage point from 2018. The report also found that more students preferred to work at private education institutions catering to primary and secondary students last year than at public schools at the same level, with the former attracting 7.6 percent of graduates and the latter 6.1 per cent. Online education companies in China have offered extremely high salaries to attract graduates from top universities as the pandemic has prompted more students to embrace digital learning.


  • Despite extending the state of emergency, domestic lockdown measures are being lifted as there has been no local transmission of COVID-19. Educational institutions at all levels will resume normal operations starting 21 September 2020.

Latin America


  • The Canadian network of Maple Bear schools announced that it will open 15 schools in Peru, over the next five years, mainly in the cities of Lima, Trujillo, Cusco and Chiclayo. This investment into Peru will be through their franchise scheme, as part of an expansion strategy in Latin America. The expansion will begin with a school in Arequipa.
  • Maple Bear offers a program that is based on the Canadian public education model. The curriculum is designed to educate the child in the physical, intellectual, emotional and social aspects, with the objective of provoking curiosity and inciting students to seek answers to their doubts and activities in the classroom.

North America

United States

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College’s College Crisis Initiative (C2i), are tracking 2,958 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with
    • Primarily online 34 per cent (+7 per cent WoW)
    • Primarily in person 23 per cent (+4 per cent WoW)
    • Hybrid 21 per cent (+5 per cent WoW)
    • Fully online 10 per cent (+4 per cent WoW)
    • Other 5 per cent (-1 per cent WoW)
    • Fully in person 3.9 per cent (+1.6 per cent WoW)
    • To be determined 2.9 per cent (-21.1 per cent WoW)
  • Key takeaways from a report by Top Hat on COVID-19 faculty preparedness showed that
    • 30 per cent of respondents were planning for a hybrid approach to teaching students for the fall academic term, after online (27 per cent) and primarily in person (8 per cent).
    • 36 per cent of respondents ranked that the level of clarity for teaching plans as good, after fair (27 per cent) and excellent (23 per cent).
    • 34 per cent of respondents ranked that the clarity of direction for teaching plans as fair, after good (31 per cent) and excellent (20 per cent).
    • 45 per cent of respondents said that the biggest concern about the modality of teaching was maintaining a state of good mental health (45 per cent), after maintaining a state of good physical health (40 per cent) and juggling caregiving (20 per cent).
    • 31 per cent of respondents were moderately satisfied to their school’s plans for fall, after moderately unsatisfied (25 per cent) and highly satisfied (24 per cent).
    • 48 per cent of respondents said that their opinion of their school is the same as before, after slightly better (20 per cent) and slightly worse (15 per cent).
  • A report by Illuminate Education and FastBridge showed that students are likely to return to school in September 2020, with less developed reading and math skills than typical at each grade level in prior years.
  • A report from Christensen Institute on educator competencies for student-centered teaching saw that most K–12 educators today don’t have the skill sets necessary to run student-centered schools. 

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