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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 7 July 2020)

07 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:

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

South East Asia


  • Government-sanctioned preventative measures against COVID-19 remain in force until 15 July. The main regulations still in place include the following:
    • All commercial international flights and all visa issuing remain suspended
    • Wearing facial masks in public spaces remains compulsory
    • An enforced curfew is in place from midnight to 4am
    • Mass gatherings, such as marriages or religious ceremonies remain tightly restricted
  • With the support of the Ministry of Education, local edtech company 360ed has launched a Universe Learning Platform. This platform has been donated in collaboration with M Pride, aiming to provide free tutoring applications for grade two and three English courses. The app supports teachers in preparing their curriculum, while offline features assist during electricity blackouts in rural areas, as well as interactive learning using AR and 4D learning support.
  • The Myanmar Government plans to provide cash support to 300,000 students who are in need of financial assistance in the new academic year. The cash support is aimed to ensure that students from the poor financial backgrounds stay in school. Since 2014, with the help of the World Bank and partner organisations, the government has supported students with financial needs in 57 townships in Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, Bago, Magwe and Mandalay regions and states.
  • The Education Ministry has set the start of the academic year for high schools to 21 July, with primary and middle schools reopening two weeks later.


  • As of 1 July, the Ministry of Education announced a staggered reopening for remaining school years starting from 15 July for the rest of secondary and upper primary, and 22 July for lower primary students. Sports and co-curricular activities however will continue to be restricted. These changes are applicable to all government schools, government-aided schools, private schools and any learning institutions registered with the Ministry of Education.
  • The Ministry of Education has also indicated that universities will be able to reopen campuses for face-to-face teaching to all students in the coming month.
  • The UK Government has recently promoted the new streamlined immigration route for graduates. The Graduate Route will be available from 2021, allowing students starting in 2020 to stay and work, or look for work in the UK, at any skill level for two years. This comes along with the push for Malaysian students to continue to consider UK universities and programs regardless of travel restrictions.

The Philippines

  • The General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila has been extended until 15 July due to a rise in confirmed cases and virus hotspots. Metro Manila along with 11 other areas in Luzon and Visayas region are in GCQ, while Cebu City remains under stricter lockdown (Enhanced Community Quarantine). The rest of the Philippines has been placed under Modified General Community Quarantine — the most relaxed phase, wherein public transportation may resume, very limited gatherings are allowed and businesses may resume operations at half capacity. Most major organisations are still opting to work from home to reduce exposure.
  • The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Philippines’ VET regulatory body has been developing free online courses for management in response to COVID-19. The aim is to increase the knowledge and deployment of safety practices and prevention against the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, while commuting or in public places for essential activities. These courses were developed compiling relevant programs from third party experts and made available via the TESDA Online Program.
  • Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade launched from 1 July 2020 “A Future That Works” program in partnership with the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) and the International Labour Association (ILO). This 17- month initiative is aiming at better aligning training and skills development with emerging labour market needs and supporting the Philippines through its digital transformation amidst the COVID-19 disruption. This program presents opportunities for Australian education providers to collaborate with Philippine education and industry stakeholders around competency frameworks, skills maps and standards development, skills assessments and evidenced-informed training programs matched to industry needs. [Source: DFAT, 2020]
  • In its ongoing efforts to internationalise Philippine Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is seeking to work with Austrade and Australian Education providers on curriculum development, teacher education and quality, in-service professional development of the HEI teaching workforce, fostering research; and pedagogical approaches to education delivery and research. For more information, please contact Grace Halcon — Business Development Manager for Education, Austrade Manilla.


  • Thailand’s Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation has launched a new online learning platform ‘Future Skill x New Career Thailand’ to build the capabilities of tomorrow’s workforce. More than 100 higher education institutions, private organisations and government agencies have been invited to develop non-degree programs for reskilling and upskilling the workforce of the future. Learners will be able to access over 800 courses, both online and offline modules via this platform for free, (noting some exceptions will be charged at 1,000 Thai Baht /A$44 per course). Focused skills include Smart Farming, Care Givers, Smart Tourism, Digital Data, Food for the Future, Industrial Robotics, Smart Innovative Entrepreneur and Creative Content.
  • The Pearson PTE Academic (UKVI) test is now available in Thailand. The UK Government recently approved Pearson PTE as a Secure English Language Test (SELT) for UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) purposes. There are two types of SELT tests: PTE Academic and PTE Home. The PTE Academic can be used to apply for UK universities. Students can sit for the PTE Academic UKVI or PTE Home exams at their test centre in Bangkok. The test is equivalent to IELTS UKVI which will help overseas students move faster towards studying in the UK.
  • Several UK universities have confirmed they will welcome new international students to their campuses this September as a regular intake despite the high number of ongoing COVID-19 cases. Thai students that are uncertain about the COVID-19 situation in the UK, are seeking to defer their studies to the January 2021 intake (if available). Alternatively, some have decided to study online this year and return back to campus later next year if and when the pandemic has eased.


  • The number of COVID-19 cases in Vietnam stands at 355 with no new infections as reported on 2 July, which is also 77 days straight without community transmission in the country.
  • Vietnam has suspended the entry of all foreigners from March 22 until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. The measure will not apply to diplomats, officials, foreign investors, experts, and skilled workers.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training has confirmed high school examinations will be held on 9 and 10 August. Local universities and vocational colleagues can use the exam results for recruitment.
  • 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. This will present opportunities for Australian education providers to expand partnership with Vietnam.
  • The US Agency for International Development (USAID) gave a grant 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.
  • On 22 June, UK Visa Application Centres reopened in Vietnam after a temporary suspension during the pandemic. The resumed UK visa operations in Vietnam marked an important step in restoring travel and business activities of the Vietnamese community to the UK.


  • The European Commission is negotiating arrangements for a €750 billion recovery fund to support the relaunch of the European economy, following the devastating economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Entitled Next Generation EU, the fund includes more support for the EU’s renowned Horizon research program, which would increase to €94.4 billion to fund research in the areas of health, resilience, and green and digital transitions. The proposal also includes more funding for the EU’s highly successful Erasmus+ mobility program, one of the largest student mobility programs in the world, however the suggested increase is less than the previous doubling of the program budget that had been proposed prior to the pandemic. The final details for the fund are yet to be confirmed, pending the outcome of negotiations with individual member nations.


  • The Russian Air Transport Agency ‘Rosaviation’, has advised airports and airlines on the extension of the ban on entry into Russia by foreigners until 1 August. The Deputy Prime Minister noted that the decision on resuming flights will be made systematically, taking into account agreements with other countries.


  • The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, NAWA, will open new programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The offer will include the Polish Returns for Biomedical Sciences program, encouraging Polish scientists with outstanding scientific achievements to return from abroad so they can help fight the pandemic, ‘Intervention grants’ to support research teams or individual international mobility in response to important unforeseen events. Finally, ‘Spinaker’ — intensive programs which aim to develop international cooperation in virtual mobility, through the creation and implementation of intensive courses, summer and winter schools, which support physical, virtual and blended mobility.
  • The Ministry of Science and Higher Education has announced that the ‘traditional delivery’ of courses will begin again in October. The final decision will depend on the pandemic situation and will be made by individual universities. Some universities have already declared that online learning will continue during the next semester (October 2020 - February 2021).

United Kingdom

  • The PM has announced that international PhD students who complete their degrees in the UK will have the opportunity to apply for a post-study work visa of up to three years. The new visa is designed to attract and retain ‘world-class’ researchers to develop ‘moon shots’ and drive innovation as the UK economy recovers from the coronavirus crisis.
  • The Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan, has announced that as of 2021, students from EU countries will no longer be eligible for the home fees at English universities, nor will they be able to get a loan to pay them from Student Finance England. Local tuition fees are £9,250, whereas international fees range from £10,000 – £38,000 depending on the degree.


  • The Milan Politecnico, one of the leading universities in Italy, announced plans to employ 50 researchers in 2020 and 150 in 2021. The Politecnico has also launched a €60 million venture capital fund to support innovation and start-ups. The announcement was made as part of a program to highlight how Italian industries are working towards a relaunch of the economy, to face the challenges and seize opportunities that have arisen during the coronavirus crisis.
  • The Minister for Universities and Research has announced that all Italian universities intend to be open for attendance on campus by 14 September. This will be managed by offering a blended learning approach at least during the first semester, with lessons alternated between on campus and online. In some universities, it will be possible to make a booking to attend campus via an online system. In order to manage exams and laboratory sessions, some universities will divide students into smaller groups.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The UAE Cabinet has announced a number of changes, and new appointments at the leadership level. In the next two years, the focus will be to transform 50 per cent of Government services into digital portals. As part of the initiative to merge 50 per cent of federal and other entities, the National Qualifications Authority will be merged with the Ministry of Education. This revamp of the cabinet structure is considered a strategic announcement to prepare the country for a post COVID-19 future.


  • The Ministry of Education sought proposals to reopen higher education institutes on a trial basis. All provinces were instructed by the ministry to put forward their suggestions. An Intra-Provincial meeting with all educational stakeholders will take place by 8 July, with a decision to be made regarding upcoming exams. Universities may reopen soon after finalising protocols/procedures.


  • Despite the daily increase of COVID-19 cases, the government has started a phased approach to opening the country. Restricted movement has been lifted in areas where it was controlled, including Capital City Nairobi. Domestic air travel will resume on 15 July and International air travel will resume on 1 August.


  • Schools remain closed, with the government encouraging tertiary institutions to embrace e-learning, which very few institutions have rolled out. The Ministry of Education is developing an ICT and e-learning framework to facilitate the implementation of e-learning by institutions. Opportunities for edtech organisations are expected from this development. Primary and secondary school students will continue with home schooling where lessons are being delivered on radio and television.

North Asia


  • China's National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA) announced that English proficiency and graduate entry exams that Chinese students take for entry to foreign universities, will resume in some Chinese cities in July. These exams include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Starting from 11 July, TOEFL tests will be resumed in at least 10 testing centres including Soochow University, Yangzhou University, and Ningbo University, according to the NEEA under the Ministry of Education. Some testing centres for IELTS, GRE, and GMAT based in Shanghai, Shenzhen, and other cities, will also be reopened in July. More detailed information about the testing centres is available on the NEEA's official website.
  • Chinese universities and colleges have increased efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the higher education process. The recently released 2018 National Undergraduate Education Quality Report issued by the Ministry of Education showed that by the end of 2018, more than 300,000 students had been enrolled in innovation and entrepreneurship training programs. Students in 452 higher education institutions have also been able to earn credits by participating in academic competitions and entrepreneurship and innovation projects.
  • DESE has recently released an overview of a summary of a new Opinions piece by eight government bodies including the Ministry of Education on accelerating and expanding the opening-up of China’s education sector. Whilst the full document has not yet been made public, the summary of the Opinions suggest there remains a strong commitment by China to the internationalisation of its education sector. Further, DESE has also released an article on the MoE’s intention to pilot a foundational Disciplines Reform Plan in select universities from 2020. The program will offer top high school graduates tailor-made education programs in top universities, using not just Gaokao (Chinese College Entrance Exam) scores, but a combination of Gaokao scores and a University’s independent assessment of a student’s overall ability and special talents. Both the aforementioned initiatives are part of China’s continued modernisation agenda for its education sector driven by China's Education Modernisation 2035 Plan and the Implementation Plan for Accelerating Education Modernisation (2018-2022).


  • A government survey shows large gaps between regions in terms of online education delivery, with 70 per cent of students living in the Tokyo metropolitan area receiving online education either at schools or cram schools, but more than 60 per cent of students living in regional areas not receiving any online learning opportunities.

Latin America


  • The total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 69,941, with almost half (32,144 or 46 per cent) being cases of community circulation.
  • The Framework Protocol and federal guidelines for the return to face-to-face classes in education was unanimously approved. With the participation of ministers of education from the 24 jurisdictions, this resolution that sets the mandatory framework guidelines and general recommendations, which will allow each province and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, to develop progressive plans and according to their individual circumstances.


  • On Sunday 5 July, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 3,685 confirmed new cases of COVID-19, increasing the total number of cases to 295,532, with a total number of deaths of 6,308. Santiago is still on total lockdown mode until Friday 10 July and is probably to be extended until mid-July, since the cases are still growing in some areas of Santiago, especially the south part of the city.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 2,191,000 and 101,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

United States

  • The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced modifications to temporary exemptions for non-immigrant students taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to publish the procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.
  • A cost analysis by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, said that reopening schools could take an average district nearly $1.8 million in unbudgeted expenses.
  • A webinar by Professionals in International Education saw 71 per cent of educator and webinar attendees saying their institution had not yet begun to map out autumn 2020 international recruitment travel as many recruitment and marketing departments facing budgets cuts.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 985 (+35) colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with
    • Planning for in-person (65 per cent, -2 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (14 per cent, +6 per cent)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (8 per cent, -1 per cent)
    • Planning for online (8 per cent, no change)
    • Waiting to decide (5 per cent -2 per cent).
  • A survey by National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators saw that 47 per cent of financial aid offices at colleges and universities saw an increase this year in the total number of requests for professional judgment, compared to the previous year. In addition, 90 per cent of them anticipate experiencing an increase in professional judgment requests in the next quarter.

South Asia


  • The government issued guidelines for the Unlock 2.0 phase that will be in force, extending the process of phased re-opening of activities across the country. Schools, colleges, and educational institutions will remain shut until 31 July 2020. Lockdown will continue to be in force in the containment zones.
  • The World Bank has approved a loan of AUD 722 million for a STARS project of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development. This program will run in six states including Maharashtra (key state in India Economy Strategy) and will aim to improve school teachers’ capacity and student learning outcomes. Australian institutions can tap into opportunities for teacher training and development of learning assessment systems.
  • The University Grants Commission has advised higher education institutions to revise curriculum, based on learning outcomes-based curriculum framework (LOCF). Australian institutions can explore opportunities with key higher education institutions to provide inputs in design and delivery of the curriculum.
  • IIT-Madras has launched online bachelors' program in programming and data science. IITs are constantly looking at ways to efficiently deliver education to students during pandemic. Australian institutions seeking to engage with IITs will need to focus on specific requirements in digital delivery, at least in the short term.

Sri Lanka

  • With further development and progress around COVID-19 situation in Sri Lanka, the education department has decided to commence schools in Sri Lanka from July 2020. This would positively impact on Australian education providers' recruitment activities in February 2021.

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