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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 6 April 2020)

08 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:

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

 

EUROPE

  • Most countries remain in total or partial lockdown, including the closure of schools and universities. While lockdowns currently have a proposed deadline, there is no certainty at this stage. Extensions have not been ruled out, pending how the pandemic continues to evolve. 
  • Existing travel bans to/from Europe remain in place.
  • While the incidence of COVID-19 is still increasing across Europe, there are hopeful signs that the growth in infections in some of the countries with the highest number of cases (and which are further along the curve), is starting to flatten more.
  • The European Association for International Education (EAIE) has published a report providing initial insights regarding the response of European higher education institutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe contains feedback regarding the early effects on student and staff mobility, internationalisation activities and the development of response strategies.
  • The EAIE 2020 Conference and Exhibition in Barcelona has been rescheduled to 13–16 October 2020.

RUSSIA

  • A working group of experts, including representatives from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education and leading universities, has been created to help solve the most pressing operational issues in the higher education sector.
  • The Ministry of Health announced that students of medical universities will be able to take part in the prevention and spread of coronavirus. Medical students will also be able to help in remote monitoring of outpatients and working on the hotline. They will carry out preventive and awareness-raising measures and deliver food and medication.
  • Mail.ru Group, the largest internet provider in Russia, has offered the Russian Government IT solutions to support education institutions with online learning. It has also provided access to its own online Learning Management System and educational courses, free self-study courses and webinars with teachers and market experts.

CZECH REPUBLIC

  • Education institutions (elementary, secondary, vocational schools, universities) are due to reopen in the second half of May at the earliest. As a result, secondary school admission exams are scheduled to take place after school reopens, while secondary school leaving exams (maturita), will take place after reopening (provided they reopen by 1 June). Admission exams to universities and amendments to the University Act are subject to further discussion by the ministry and rectors.
  • Erasmus+ study abroad students have been advised to consider returning home. For those that are still abroad, provided the host school confirms that distance/online instruction has taken place and that their studies have been completed, students will maintain their entitlement to a scholarship for the duration of their study abroad period.
  • Concerns echoed from education agents, for students are either stranded in Australia or who have arrived back home after their course was deferred. The concern is that student visas will expire, and they will be required to re-apply once the restrictions are lifted, then pay student visa fees a second time — for the same course of study. Agents across a number of European countries share similar concerns.

UK

  • University Vice-Chancellors who are facing a funding shortfall of GBP 7 billion are asking for an emergency bailout from the government. This aims to cover the gap created by an expected drop in international students, as well as lower revenue from conferences and student accommodation.
  • Northern Consortium, a Manchester-based provider of university pathway programs for Australian and UK higher education institutions, is offering overseas students the option of completing their first year online, before continuing their studies on campus in Australia and the UK.

SPAIN

  • The Spanish Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Universities is implementing a variety of measures to ensure students do not lose this academic year due to absence from classes during the lockdown. This includes extended examination dates, online learning, and a five-hour television program, called ‘Learning from Home’ for students from six to sixteen.
  • Students without online access will be provided with mobile phones, as well as Webex licences for videoconferencing. Movistar, the Spanish telecoms service provider, will be issuing 20,000 lines each with 40 GB/month.

GERMANY

  • The German Ministry of Education (BMBF) launched a funding call to support ‘Travelling Conferences’ in Bioeconomy and Health to Australia in late 2020 and in 2021. Given the current situation makes it difficult for researchers in Germany and Australia to continue their international cooperation, the funding call will enable researchers to reconnect with their counterparts. More details are available on the BMBF website.
  • The German school system is far behind in the use of e-learning technologies and this is now evident from the COVID-19 crisis. For years, German educational providers and policy makers have missed opportunities to assess and act on the topic of e-learning. This includes virtual classrooms, online homework and projects that are organised and managed solely via the internet. The current school closures now highlight what the German education system is broadly lacking — the everyday use of digitally supported forms of teaching.

ITALY

  • The Government has confirmed that all school students will be admitted to sit the school leaving exam (maturità), regardless of their current grades. If the lockdown is lifted and pupils return to school by 18 May, the exam will be similar to those in past years, otherwise it will be online and instead of a written final test, there will be a single oral exam. In addition, if health reasons so require, the final exam could also be carried out in virtual mode.
  • According to the Italian Rectors Association (CRUI), by 20 March, 1.2 million university students, or the 80 per cent of the total, had attended virtual classes, with 70,500 online exams completed and 26,000 students obtaining their degree at a distance. Optimistically, attendance at digital classes has been higher than during normal classes. Universities will soon start online orientation activities and digital entry exams for the next academic year.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

United Arab Emirates

  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the educational quality assurance and regulatory authority of the Government of Dubai, has launched In This Together portal to connect technology and wellbeing-based organisations with teachers, parents and students who are teaching and learning from home.
  • It features applications, websites and support that will be offered free of charge during the distance learning period.
  • Australian edtech companies interested in providing free of charge products or services during the distance learning period to the UAE community can register on the portal.

Turkey

  • Student recruitment activities continue, including webinars with Australian institutions.
  • Some Turkish agents expect momentum to startup for the September 2020 Intake, and are optimistic about the February 2021 Intake and beyond.
  • It is expected that some English language schools in Turkey will close due to the economic effects of COVID-19. 

Iran

  • The closure of schools and universities introduced in mid-February continues.
  • No time frame for semester recommencement has been identified, and protocols are in place for government organisations and businesses to either work remotely or in shifts.
  • The government has implemented the online classes from the National TV channels for all K-12 levels as there is limited online learning options.
  • Some private schools and prestigious universities are providing online learning.
  • Education service providers continue providing online services and interviewing their students online. Education agents are still accepting student applications, and have noted that interest continues for future study in Australia.

NORTH ASIA

China

  • The China Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) under the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) has stated that Chinese students overseas will not be penalized for any delay, inconsistency or online courses taken during the COVID-19 pandemic period. An unofficial translation is available here.
  • The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), through the Australian Embassy in Beijing, has maintained frequent contact with the MoE and the CSCSE since early February on student safety and qualification verification matters and overseas qualifications verification applications will be processed accordingly.
  • The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has also had ongoing communications with the CSCSE on this issue and is assisting them to understand Australia’s quality assurance processes with respect to online learning.
  • Many Australian universities have also made direct contact with the CSCSE to discuss specific implications for their institutions.
  • The CSCSE provided formal advice on 3 April 2020 on verifying Chinese student’s foreign degree qualifications where these are obtained partially online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The CSCSE’s notice acknowledges and supports the flexible measures institutions have adopted, such as extending registration dates and offering online courses. Importantly, it also confirms that online courses taken due to the inability to attend campus will not influence the verification of foreign qualifications.
  • It has also established a foreign (overseas) academic qualification verification hotline.  An unofficial translation of the full text of the notice is below.
  • The MoE has delayed China’s Gaokao (University entrance) examination for one month, until 7-8 July, 2020.
  • In a survey conducted by the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association (BOSSA), approximately 86 per cent of current Chinese students in key markets who were surveyed indicated they wished to return to China as the COVID-19 situation develops further.

Hong Kong

  • The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had a double-digit increase over the last two weeks, due to large number of HK residents returning from overseas including international students.
  • The Hong Kong government has imposed stringent measures on social distancing in the city. This includes a ban on group gatherings of more than four people in a public place and stricter requirements for restaurants. Civil servants and corporate employees are encouraged to work from home.
  • The Hong Kong Education Bureau announced on 21 March that classes of all schools will be suspended until further notice. Health experts predict that it will be difficult for classes to resume prior to the summer holidays.
  • The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority announced that the written exams of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) will be postponed until the 24 April. Both speaking exams for Chinese and English Language subjects will be cancelled.

Taiwan

  • The Ministry of Education placed a ban on overseas travel on all students and teachers at the senior high school level and below until the end of the current semester on 14 July. Note most government supported travel has either been suspended or postponed indefinitely.
  • Agents who focus on short-term study tours are expecting no study tour groups going abroad in the upcoming summer break due to the travel ban issued by major study destinations.
  • Parents and students have voiced concerns over quality and learning outcomes via online teaching modes, and if tuition fees should remain the same for both online and face-to-face study modes.

Korea

  • Encouragingly, Korea’s COVID-19 curve appears to be flattening. 
  • The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 86 new infections Friday 3 April, bringing the total number of cases to 10,062.
  • However, the number of infections from overseas is increasing ― of the 86 new infections, 18 were contracted outside the country, mostly Korean nationals returning home. 
  • Stricter quarantine rules are in place for approximately 7,000 passengers who are arriving at the airport daily.
  • The prime minister announced the new school year will start online classes on 9 April. However many teachers, parents and students have raised concerns about the lack of preparedness for the introduction of online classes.
  • Universities are offering lectures via online but students have raised concerns on unsatisfactory quality of the lectures
  • Prime time Korea news featured another disturbing report of Asians (Chinese and Vietnamese) being abused in Australia in relation to COVID-19. This follows on from a report last week of a similar incident targeting a Korean person on a working holiday.
  • Initiatives to promote our tertiary institutions via digital platforms are being developed to replace the cancelled Study in Australia Korea event that was to be held in May. Options include webinars and other digital media platforms. Targets are B2C and B2B
  • Articles promoting Australian blockchain expertise, courses and credential verification programs were submitted for publication in the journal for the Korean Council of University Education.

JAPAN

  • Currently there are 3,271 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 70 deaths in Japan as of 5 April according to Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
  • Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is encouraging universities and technical colleges to deliver remote classes and will support this through some practical initiatives.
  • MEXT plans to lend about 100,000 mobile routers to students through education institutions without experience in online education for free by early May.
  • According to MEXT, only about 200 universities/technical colleges (out of 830) have experience in organising remote or online classes. Of the remaining 630, about 220 institutions lack technical expertise and equipment to implement remote learning.
  • MEXT also estimates about 20 per cent of university students do not have WiFi at home, which is about 400 students per institution on average.
  • MEXT plans to allocate more than 2 billion yen for this arrangement as a part of the emergency economic package.
  • MEXT is also going to arrange a special provision to the Copyright Act to allow education institutions to use teaching materials online without permission. This special provision is valid for FY 2020 (till March 2021) only.
  • In response to a request from Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), three communication companies including NTT docomo, Softbank and KDDI agreed to assist students under 25 years old.
  • These companies will not charge for the purchase of extra data capacity in April. As many universities are going to provide remote classes, students are required to access the internet more frequently and may need to purchase extra data capacity.
  • Universities are currently on spring break. Many have decided to postpone the start of the new semester till after 20 April (subject to the situation in early April).
  • However, it is expected that universities in Tokyo delay the start of the new semester even further in responding to Governor Koike’s request on 25 March.
  • Tokyo metropolitan government and other local governments around Tokyo area announced that their Boards of Education decided to extend the school closures until the end of Golden Week (6th May). For now, several online teaching contents are offered by private providers for free and are appreciated by students at home.

LATIN AMERICA

Mexico

  • The country is officially in Stage 2. There are 1,510 cases and 50 deceased. All non-essential economic activities have been suspended and only hospitals, markets/super markets/grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants (delivery or to go) remain open.
  • Currently, Mexico’s Federal Government has not announced any economic package that would help the country to deal with the coming economic impact.
  • Post coordinated a webex session with the HOM and Education Agents to talk about the current state of the industry, the concerns for present and future students as well as requests that could provide support to the Agents.
  • CONACYT (National Council of Science and Technology) announced they will fund research around COVID-19. Researchers from various universities have been working on this with the support from their institutions.
  • Post has been in touch with similar agencies from the USA, Canada, UK, France and The Netherlands to share views and talk about the future of the market. 
  • All institutions in the country at all levels are delivering education online.

Chile

  • The Ministry of Health confirmed on Friday that the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has reached 3,737 with 427 recovered persons and 22 deaths.
  • Chile reports a case fatality rate of 0.5 per cent similar to that of countries such as South Korea, Germany or Japan before they reached the peak of infections and that are internationally recognized for their strategies to cope with COVID-19.
  • On Tuesday 31 March, the total lockdown of the main suburban areas of Santiago (Vitacura, Las Condes, Providencia, Lo Barnechea, Ñuñoa and Santiago) was reinstated for seven more days.
  • The Ministry of Finance announced an economic stimulus package for US$11,750 million and laws to protect employment.
  • The main industry association CPC announce the creation of a US$70 million fund to provide contribute to the fight against COVID-19

Colombia

  • Official figures from the Ministry of Health report 1,161 confirmed cases and 19 deaths, and 55 people recovered.
  • President Duque reported that South Korea will send Colombia, thousands of detection respirators, sanitary implements and a medical commission to help contain the spread.
  • The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation announced its initiative to find innovative solutions to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the care of the most vulnerable people with coronaviruses and interpreting this in the most remote regions of the country, among other topics.
  • Colfuturo, the national scholarship entity announced a plan for students unable to continue their studies or research projects due to the coronavirus emergency. One of these measures is that the beneficiaries who require financial relief will not have to pay the instalments of their credits corresponding to April, May and June.
  • Current Colfuturo beneficiaries have proposed that loans and interest be frozen until the country's economic situation stabilizes, an estimated period of six months; to these proposals was added a petition on the Change.org platform supported by 9,335 signatories.

Peru

  • The Ministry of Health has declared 1,595 COVID patients to date. 61 people are in intensive care and 61 deaths until today.
  • 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. Men can go to supermarkets, banks and pharmacies on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while women can go on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sunday nobody circulates and absolutely everything will be closed.
  • It is expected at least 3,000 Peruvians will be repatriated in the next week.
  • The Peruvian president announced that all public and private schools in the country would begin classes remotely starting Monday, 6 April. This is an unprecedented announcement as this will speed up the delivery of classes digitally. 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 between public and private) have asked us to put them in contact with their Australian counterparts in order to explore Post COVID-19 internationalization strategies
  • The National Superintendent of Higher Education has asked us to contact TEQSA to learn good practices.
  • The Minister of Finance has announced new financial aid packages for both families and companies. She has announced tax breaks, low-rate bank loans and the possibility of withdrawing money from the individual pension fund.

BRAZIL

  • On Friday 3 April, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 9,082 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 359 deaths. São Paulo remains the state with the highest number of deaths and confirmed cases.
  • The first 500,000 units of quick tests to diagnose coronavirus (COVID-19) are already in Brazil. It is the first batch of a total of 5 million acquired by Vale and donated to the Ministry of Health. The tests will be used by health professionals who work in health posts and hospitals across the country, in addition to security officers, such as police, firefighters and civil guards who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The Ministry of Health has announced that it will make the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine available for use in patients with severe forms of COVID-19, at medical discretion. The decision was based on promising studies that demonstrate the potential benefit of use in critically ill patients. In this case, due to the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry has authorised the use of these drugs from preliminary data available.
  • Quarantine period remains in the country. Further announcements will come after 7 April. Schools, shopping malls, gyms, bars, cafes and restaurants remain closed. Restaurants are allowed to operate only through delivery services. Essential services in the areas of public health, private health, food, supply, security and cleaning remain open.
  • Borders are still closed with South American countries, the Brazilian government banned all flights coming from Europe and Asia. Foreigners entering the country through airports are still restricted.
  • Local education providers already turned to live streamed lectures, webinars, and e-learning.

NORTH AMERICA

  • The United States and Canada have more than 260,000 and 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.
  • The U.S. Department of Education have suspended payments on federal student loans, and eliminated interest on some types of loans, from March through September. As well, the CARES Act does require that colleges set aside half of the grant money they receive to provide students with emergency aid money to provide for basic needs and education support.
  • The U.S. Department of Education issued proposed rules for distance learning, following a months-long rulemaking process last year. The proposal seeks to give schools more flexibility for providing online programs, such as by reducing some barriers to offering competency-based education and providing latitude for measuring the credit hour.
  • However, some observers say the 30-day comment period on the rules doesn't give stakeholders enough time to adequately review and respond to them in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Final regulations are expected by 1 November.
  • NAFSA penned a letter to Department of Homeland Security ensuring the health and safety of international students and exchange visitors. NAFSA is concerned that the US’ reputation as a study destination would be jeopardised if visa processing is not revived soon enough and work rules are not clarified, even though the DHS has confirmed that students can study can continue coursework online without affecting their visa status.
  • Some of the US’s most selective colleges became slightly less selective this year, as Harvard University, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania posted increased acceptance rates for the first-year class that will begin in the fall.
  • Coronavirus is driving colleges to drop the SAT or ACT for admissions, waive fees and extend deadlines.At least 17 colleges dropping the SAT or ACT in recent weeks for one or two admissions cycles, specifically citing the impact of COVID-19.
  • The coronavirus is making parents rethink higher education decisions for their children. A survey by Quatromoney and TuitionFit showed 25.7 per cent of respondents are rethinking their college choice due to the coronavirus outbreak and 30 per cent of parents are slightly more inclined to rethink their high school senior's college choice.
  • It is expected that declining U.S. state tax revenue will impact states’ capacity to fund HE. This has reinvigorated ideas for free tuition programs, which is already popular with some states.
  • Productive LLC, a strategy consulting firm that designs impact investment programs for companies and organizations, is surveying education companies about how they’ve been affected by COVID-19. 67 per cent of respondents are offering their products at discount or for free, 61 per cent are seeing user growth in their free offerings and 33 per cent have seen a decrease in demand for paid offerings. As well, 43 per cent have reported sales cancelled in response to school closures, 57 per cent have less than 6 months of financial runway and 30 per cent have laid off employees.
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the parent organization of EdSurge, has announced new dates for its annual conference. Originally scheduled to be held 28 June to 1 July, ISTE 2020 will now take place 28 November to 1 December, 2020. It will remain in the same location: the Anaheim Convention Centre in Anaheim, California.

SOUTH ASIA

India

  • The government has decided to stick to the academic calendar and start the 2020-21 academic session for schools from the first week of April through online classes.
  • If the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted by mid-April, the government is also looking at conducting the remaining grade 10 and 12 board exams in the first week of May.
  • In order to start classes online, schools will be advised to follow the SWAYAM TV channels run by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
  • Indian universities have also gone online during the crisis. To maintain continuity in the teaching learning process, the study material for all UG and PG programs in available on their websites.
  • The government has reached out to IITs, premier engineering institutes to develop tech-enabled solutions to help contain the virus. While some researchers are developing prototypes for ventilators to overcome their shortage, others have teamed up to develop testing kits.
  • The edtech companies are offering free online classes or attractive discounts on e-learning modules. The measures have been met with overwhelming response by students with some start-ups witnessing as high as 25 per cent uptick in e-learning.

Nepal

  • Nepal is under lockdown till 7 April. International flights will remain suspended till 15 April.
  • All Schools and colleges along with other businesses remain closed during the lockdown and until further notice.
  • In a recent order on 29 March, Nepal government with the aim of saving foreign exchange has temporarily banned import of high end vehicles and alcoholic beverages.
  • In weeks to come it will become clear if Nepalese government will be giving the No Objection Certificates for students going to study abroad in same numbers as it did before.

Bangladesh

  • All academic institutions, including primary to higher level remain close until 9 April. All educational institutes are likely going to vacate all its dormitories to avoid COVID-19 spread inside the campus.
  • The government has extended the ongoing public holiday till 9 April to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in Bangladesh.
  • The Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations scheduled for 1 April have been postponed due to fears over spread of coronavirus.
  • Exams were expected to be held at over 9,000 educational institutions under 10 education boards — eight general, one madrassa and a technical education board.

Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka is at stage 3a and country is in a total lockdown status and curfew is imposed island wide.
  • Current prevailing situation is very likely to affect school exams in June and August hence a direct impact to the future student numbers to Australia.
  • Sri Lanka has cut down all non-essential goods importations limiting only to essential goods during this time.
  • The government of Sri Lanka has and advised private sector financial institutions to ease the leasing and loans to support the people in the country.

NZ Pacific         

  • The government of PNG has extended the state of emergency for two months.
  • Restrictions on domestic flights will be lifted from Monday 6 April.
  • The government has announced K5.6 billion COVID-19 stimulus economic package with support from multilateral agencies such as World Bank and ADB.
  • The Australian government continues to provide support for the Health sector and Defence sector.
  • PNG Education mission (PNG & Solomon Islands) for July 2002 has been cancelled.
  • DFAT have advised their 2020 Australia Awards program will be delayed for student interviews until around 30 June.
  • Successful PNG students to start in semester 2, 2021. Austrade are discussing with DFAT the options to include some digital or phone consultations
  • In Fiji the mid-semester breaks for all universities were brought forward, started from 20 March and has now been further extended until 17 April 2020.
  • Students are advised against going to any of the campuses during this period.
  • There are no face to face or on-line study classes at USP, Fiji National University and University of Fiji due to limited staff allowed at premises.

 

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.