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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 8 September 2020)

08 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
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • North America
  • South Asia



  • Effective 11 August 2020, all passengers arriving in the United Kingdom from Malaysia are no longer subject to a 14-days mandatory self-isolation. With Malaysia now on the UK’s travel corridor exemption list, and the general preference for on-campus/ face to face learning, there will be greater pressure on Australian education providers looking to secure Malaysian students' enrolments. UK universities, including locally based campuses and local partners delivering British degrees, have ramped up their marketing campaigns in recent months.
  • An extension to the current Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) in Malaysia was announced recently. RMCO is set to continue until 31 December 2020. A travel ban against citizens of countries recording more than 150,000 cases of COVID-19 was also announced to start from 7 September. This includes United States, Brazil, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
  • 23 countries have been listed including those with longer term visas (including student visas). This impacts Malaysia’s source destinations for international students like Bangladesh and Indonesia. With the continued suspension of all new student visa applicants by Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), there will be an impact to local higher education institutions including TNE partners.


  • 16 Myanmar universities, including the University of Yangon and universities of distance education, declared autonomy from the government. The declaration follows the Ministry of Education’s September announcement that universities across Myanmar are permitted to take charge of developing their own syllabuses to meet the needs of the region, the faculty and students.
  • Due to the increasing number of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases, the Department of Basic Education stated that all basic education schools, monastic education schools and private schools across the country will be temporarily re-closed starting from 27 August as a precautionary measure. The date to re-open the schools is yet to be announced.


  • Higher education institutions (HEIs) able to deliver their entire curriculum online were permitted by the Philippines Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to start classes in June, while those that are adopting a blended model were permitted to start in August. Around 20 private HEIs started classes in June and July and at least 731 out of 2,400 HEIs started classes in August. CHED suspended their Student Internship Abroad Program for school year 2020-21.
  • Unlike Australia, where admission to university depends on a student’s ATAR, Philippine universities have their own admission exams. The Ateneo de Manila University and the University of Santo Tomas have decided not to go ahead with these exams for school year 2021-22. Prospective students will be assessed based on past academic performance, essays and recommendations. Perceived lack of rigorousness in this process and consequently, concerns over the quality of incoming students have been raised. Other universities, including the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University, have not yet announced whether they plan to cancel admission exams.


  • On 14 August 2020, the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam (MOET) issued an official instruction to all city/provincial education authorities on delivering STEM education at 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.
  • Also according to MOET, they will soon finalise the draft of online teaching regulations at schools and education institutions. Once the regulations are in place, online teaching will be considered a form of formal teaching method. This presents opportunities for Australian international education to share expertise, experience, best practices in delivering technology curriculum in the school sector in Vietnam.
  • MOET is planning to implement the Vietnam National Qualifications Framework (VQF). The objective of the VQF is to have equivalent recognition of Vietnamese qualifications to those of regional and international qualifications. Consequently, Vietnam will then become a source of manpower to the world. This will present opportunities for Australian education providers to expand partnership with Vietnam.
  • Currently Vietnam has 70 higher education institutions providing international programs and 352 active joint programs. Over 192,000 Vietnamese students are studying overseas and the number of international students coming to Vietnam during the past 5 years has also increased by 10 per cent annually. In the context of COVID-19, MOET has directed local institutions to accept returning Vietnamese students from international education. This results in significant demand for joint delivered programs from local higher institutions, opening doors for Australian institutions to further explore partnership models.



  • Universities will re-open this month in accordance with key guidelines: to the extent possible, lessons will be available in blended mode both in class and online, to cater for students who are unable to return to campus and to reduce the number of attendees in person to half capacity, allowing for social distancing; universities can offer advance booking to attend class in person and schedule participation in shifts; masks are obligatory in class and sanitiser dispensers must be available; the movement of students must be managed to avoid unnecessary gatherings; people with symptoms are not permitted to attend campus.
  • Some Italian universities have offered incentives in a bid to attract local students, given the anticipated reduction in enrolments due to the effect of the pandemic on family income and lower international student numbers. Measures on offer include merit-based discounts based on academic performance, a bonus for multiple enrolments from the same family, transport discounts, SIM cards with high data capacity and vouchers for reductions on the purchase of laptops and tablets.


  • Despite the coronavirus crisis, foreign students’ interest in studying in Germany has continued. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) announced this week that almost 60,000 prospective international students from 183 countries applied for a Bachelor or Masters program in Germany by the deadline of 20 August. While this equates to 80 per cent of last year’s applications, it exceeds numbers from the 2017-18 winter semester and all previous years. In the 2019-20 winter semester, 74,000 international students applied.


  • The new academic year started during the first week of September, with the majority of institutions to open their doors by October. On-campus classes may be transitioned to distance mode if required, and individual education institutions must comply with regional requirements.
  • Russia is a popular destination for many foreign students and according to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, about 300,000 students from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, China, Ukraine, India and other countries studied at Russian universities in the 2019-2020 academic year. In light of this, the Head of Rospotrebnadzor (the Russian Consumer Protection and Welfare Agency), has advised that the Russian Government is planning to update some of the conditions regarding the return of foreign students. Rospotrebnadzor may extend the list of approved countries from which students can enter Russia, particularly for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations. Currently, foreign students from select countries, such as Turkey, Great Britain, Tanzania and Switzerland are allowed to return to the institutions in which they are enrolled. They need to provide their citizenship document, residence permit or other document confirming the right to permanent residence in these countries, as well as a medical certificate confirming a negative test result for COVID-19. Foreign students can be admitted to classes after 14 days of isolation from the day they enter the Russian Federation. On the 10-12th day, they must undergo a test for coronavirus. It is mandatory to wear masks in universities. Students from other countries are currently studying online.
  • Foreign students studying at specialty universities with a focus on creative disciplines will be able to return to Russia before 1 October. The Ministry of Culture and universities are working together to create a register of students who are planning to continue full-time studies.
  • According to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, the Government is planning to increase higher education enrolment numbers for IT specialties from 50,000 in 2020 to 120,000 by 2024. This will be done in the context of the Russian Digital Economy Program.


  • After a six month break, Spanish children return to school this month - but with a new surge in coronavirus outbreaks the return to classes is causing concern. The central government has issued a set of guidelines (a total of 29 measures and 5 recommendations) to keep classrooms safe, including extra hygiene and compulsory facemasks for children over the age of six.
  • Additional measures will be implemented by regional education boards. Spain has 17 regional governments that are responsible for health and education and each has introduced a variety of different measures, including a staggered return to school depending on age groups. Both central and regional governments have agreed that, in general, teaching activity will be face-to-face for all levels and stages of the educational system, with younger students prioritised.


  • The peak body for R&D, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), announced that international students will be eligible for all UKRI-funded postgraduate studentships for the first time from the start of the 2021/22 academic year. International PhD students will be eligible for a stipend to support living costs and fees at research organisations’ UK rate. Further details will be released by the end of the year.

Middle East and Africa

Ghana and Nigeria

  • All Schools both public and private systems were initially closed due to COVID-19, however the government began a phased approach in easing restrictions for schools to reopen from mid-June. Senior high schools and junior high schools resumed classes ahead of exams, observing special guidelines such as reduced class numbers, reduced school time etc. All other educational facilities, private and public schools for non-final year students remain closed.
  • Private schools are continuing their classes online. It is expected that most final year university students would have completed their examinations and by 18 September, final year junior and senior high school students would have completed their final exams either Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) or West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) respectively. Some tertiary institutions that could not complete their academic year online resumed school on 24 August to complete the academic year. Government are in discussions with all stakeholders regarding re-opening of pre-tertiary schools in due course.
  • COVID-19 will impact on international student recruitment. Even though the academic year was not cancelled, recruitment activities are affected as final/exit examinations were delayed, affecting the timings of results for admission into tertiary institutions.


  • Agent networks have reportedly received less visa applications for Australia compared to the UK and Canada, which they assess is due to higher cost of living and study in Australia (and not COVID-19 related). Agents report that studying in Canada costs almost half as much as Australia, whilst the UK is almost as expensive as Australia but the duration of tertiary level is shorter in the UK i.e. 1 year for masters and 3 years for bachelor degrees thus cheaper in total. Furthermore, networks report the processing of Australian student visa issuance takes longer than Canadian and the UK visas.
  • In addition to the above, the new post-study work visa rules makes UK more attractive for Iranian students. From September 2020 any student enrolling at a UK university can stay in the UK after graduation for up to two years in order to look for work related to their degree or course.


  • The Ministry of Education is said to be considering the re-opening date for schools in Kenya. In the last public announcement the Ministry had indicated that schools are to re-open in January 2021. The Minister for Education last week indicated that schools could open November 2020, but this will be based on direction from the Ministry of Health.
  • The cancellation of the 2020 academic year will impact the student recruitment pipeline in 2020-21. In previous years, a significant proportion of students recruited into Australian institutions sat the national examinations. Uncertainty and the lack of clarity regarding the way forward for student visas for students who were not able to travel in 2020 due to border closure is affecting the pipeline as well.
  • Competitors have started to run virtual events and some countries such as Netherlands processing student visas this month.
  • Private schools offering alternative curriculums other than the national one such as the British curriculum in the country have continued with online learning and successfully managed to sit for the final exams in July 2020.


  • The academic year in Mauritius has been extended into March 2021 which will delay final exams SC/HSC international exams to April/May 2021. The Government of Mauritius will continue to award scholarships to high performing students and many Australian universities compete to offer places to these students.
  • Education agents report strong interest in studying in Australia with a number of prospective students engaging in online study programs to prepare or transfer to Australia once borders reopen.


  • On 7 September the Federal and State Government announced the intention to reopen all educational institutions across the country from 15 September, in stages. The federal government has also decided to allow educational institutes to reschedule examinations that had been delayed since March 2020. Strict standard operation procedures (SOPs) must be followed for reopening of institutions.

South Africa

  • Government schools have only recently reopened, and Year 12 support is provided to learners through television, radio and online to prepare learners for final exams from October to mid December 2020. Results are expected to be announced on 23 February 2021, approximately a month later than usual. Private schools have continued online classes during the largest part of lockdown and learners have been going back to school (on a rotation basis) since early June. International travel is still banned except for repatriation flights in or out of South Africa.
  • Education agents report strong interest in studying in Australia with a number of prospective students engaging in online study programs to prepare or transfer to Australia once borders reopen.

United Arab Emirates

  • The UAE 2020-2021 academic year commenced on 30 August. Schools offered students to opt for either face to face or distance learning over the term until December 2020. The education regulatory bodies have confirmed that various precautionary measures have been implemented in schools across the country to ensure safety and wellbeing of students and school administrators.
  • Higher education enrolments for institutions (including over 30 branch campuses in UAE) in the market is expected to increase for the September 2020 semester as parents are concerned about the wellbeing of their children, hence looking for in-market study options to continue education.
  • The UK is emerging as a highly popular destination for international students living in the UAE who are willing to travel abroad for studies as UK borders open. With the commencement of two years post study work visa from January 2021 and with Masters courses usually involving one or two years of study, UK has emerged as an attractive study destination option during COVID-19.


  • The reopening of schools, previously planned for 28 July 2020, has been deferred indefinitely. The situation for children continues to deteriorate with the prolonged closures likely to have a major impact on children’s learning, physical, social and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Education agents report strong interest in studying in Australia with a number of prospective students engaging in online study programs to prepare or transfer to Australia once borders reopen.

North Asia


  • The 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) was released on 15 August by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. ARWU lists the top 1,000 universities worldwide, of which 144 Chinese mainland universities were on the 2020 list. This was an increase of 12 universities compared to last year. Six Chinese universities entered the top 100, with Tsinghua University ranking 29th, overtaking Kyoto University from Japan as the second-best ranked Asian university. The University of Tokyo remains the top-ranked university in Asia. ARWU uses six indicators to rank world universities, including number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals; number of highly cited researchers; number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science; the number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index and Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index; as well as the total sum of the aforementioned five performance indicators divided by FTE staff of the institution.
  • The Austrade China education team has recently completed a social media promotional campaign under the umbrella of #InThisTogether that aims to highlight Australian education providers' efforts to support students and raise awareness of the benefits and quality of Australian online education. The campaign was launched on three popular Chinese digital platforms - Wechat Moment Ads, Weibo Fanstalk and Iqiyi pre-roll adds. From 30 June to 21 August, the campaign achieved overall 11,660,170 impressions and the main video was played 2,364,511 times across the three platforms.

Latin America


  • The Teacher Training Institute (INFOD) continues to expand the virtual free training proposal for all Argentine teaching, in the framework of the new challenges posed by the pandemic.
  • By 7 September, registrations will open for 10 new courses for teachers and managers across all levels of the education system, as well as students from Higher Teacher Training Institutes. The courses will take place between September and December, will be tutored by professionals and will reach 100,000 educators from all over the country.
  • The National Minister of Education participated in a virtual meeting with his counterparts from Denmark and Japan to discuss their action plans for the sector during the current pandemic.
  • As part of the preliminary work led by Government to return students to schools and classrooms, the Federal Education Council unanimously approved: 1) Federal framework for institutional reorganization of return-to-school activities; 2) Criteria for evaluation, accreditation and promotion; 3) Guidelines for the 2020-2021 curricular contextualisation and teaching arrangements; 4) Accompany Program: Bridges for Equality. During the stage of progressive return to schools and until a vaccine is available, three ways of passing through compulsory education will coexist, according to the regional and the health safety standards necessary to take care of the entire educational community.
  • The Ministry of Education continues to distribute IT equipment to secondary school students to facilitate education delivery. From 30 August, the government has distributed 39,645 netbooks in 7 provinces of the north and 20 districts of Greater Buenos Aires. Likewise, 14,289 tablets have been delivered. It was also reported that 23,203 netbooks and 4,564 tablets will be delivered in other provinces (Chaco, Corrientes, Misiones and Tucumán) as well as 7,218 computers in town halls from the Province of Buenos Aires, such as 3 de Febrero, Merlo, Lanús and Pilar.


  • Brazilian edtech company Descomplica made AUD 14 million investment for a completely online college to offer undergraduate programs in Business Administration, Accounting and Education. The college started in August this year, with 1,200 vacancies. The goal was to fill vacancies by the end of this year, but spots have already been filled. This result proved that distance education has been on the spotlight given the current scenario, and according to the CEO, this trend will continue even after the pandemic as young people in Brazil are using internet for everything, and will do the same when it comes to learning.


  • This Friday, 4 September marks 173 days of the state of emergency decreed by the Government to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
  • Peru is now the country with the highest mortality rate in the world.
  • Computer purchase by Peruvian government:
    • The Ministry of Education (Minedu) completed the purchase of 1,056,430 electronic devices (tablets) that are part of the strategy to close the digital divide. Devices will be distributed to students (fourth grade to fifth grade secondary) from targeted educational institutions in rural and urban areas of poverty quintiles 1 and 2.
    • Manufacturers will preload on the tablets the content manager “Aprendo en Casa” –developed by Minedu – which includes pedagogical material to learn with or without connectivity, applications to stimulate the development of communication in native languages, as well as applications that facilitate learning for students with special educational needs, among other resources.
  • Ongoing teacher training
    • Minedu is also running a specialised program for teachers who will accompany their students in the use of tablets. The program comprises three courses: one dedicated to digital literacy, another aimed at preparing teachers in the use of pedagogical resources and materials embedded in the tablet to develop learning experiences with digital media, and a third focussed on the use of digital environments to develop remote evaluation processes.

North America


  • According to ICEF Monitor, international students, post-secondary institutions and stakeholders are concerned about the return of international students to Canada. Although Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has established policies regarding their safe return, some points lack certainty. For instance, international students will be granted entry for non-discretionary/non-optional travel. A Canadian Border Services agent must make the determination based on guidance, which is cause for concern.
  • IRCC released further guidance on 26 August regarding remote studies applicability to post-graduate work permits (PGWP). According to IRCC, students can complete up to 50 per cent of their studies online and it will count toward their PGWP, until 30 April 2021. Eligibility criteria includes, among other items, program start date and length.

United States of America

  • Department of Education have updated their Distance Education and Innovation regulations. One of the biggest changes will provide flexibility to distance education, competency-based education (CBE), and other types of educational programs that emphasise demonstration of learning rather than seat time when measuring student outcomes.
  • Department of Education is using $28 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support a new grant program meant to help colleges recover from the pandemic. Schools need to meet criteria in order to access the funds.
  • 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 27% (no change WoW)
    • To be determined 24% (no change WoW)
    • Primarily in person 19% (-1% WoW)
    • Hybrid 16% (+1% WoW)
    • Other 6% (no change WoW)
    • Fully online 6% (no change WoW)
    • Fully in person 2.3% (-0.2% WoW)
  • The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center posted their latest enrolment information affecting nearly seven million students enrolled at 2,300 colleges:
    • Undergraduate enrolment declines continued from last year but were offset by a jump in graduate enrolments this year.
    • Community colleges, for-profit institutions and Black students suffered the most from the online only summer sessions this year.
  • The National Education Association has just launched a tracker of cases in public K-12 schools.
  • A survey by Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace where teachers buy and sell original education resources, saw 47 per cent of respondents report they had considered making a major job-related change in the last month.
  • A survey by the University of Virginia and the EdTech Evidence Exchange saw that only 27 per cent of teachers were receiving professional development for technology-based remote instruction in Spring 2020, relying on informal and self-initiated learning instead. In contrast, administrators were receiving almost twice the formal learning opportunities than teachers (52%).

South Asia

  • Austrade delivered an industry masterclass on Hydrogen Energy which was attended by 158 industry and research leaders from India and Bangladesh. The initiative, developed by Austrade South Asia, is providing a platform to showcase Australian capabilities to develop trade and research linkages with companies in South Asia. Austrade has received positive feedback for this masterclass and it has provided opportunities for Education and Energy teams to engage key customer organisations in the market.


  • Indian edtech company Unacademy has raised AUD 210m to support delivery of its exam preparation and online courses to over 30 million registered users. Byjus raised AUD 122 m to scale up its K-12 offerings and Coursera has registered 1,400 per cent growth in the past 6 months in India. Edtech growth in India offers opportunities for Australia due to growing demand for innovative learning platforms, content and professional training solutions.
  • Chan Zuckerberg initiative has invested AUD 158 m in Eruditus, an executive education company which has links with 30+ American, British and European universities. Eruditus has enrolled 50,000 students in the last 12 months and opportunities exist for Australian universities to tap this sector along with Eruditus or other executive education providers in India.


  • Bangladesh banks have been allowed to remit outward on account of study abroad under online education arrangements. This is a welcome change for Australian institutions recruiting students from Bangladesh for their regular courses running online
  • Bangladesh Government is betting big on education transformation by spending AUD 46 b in the next 3 years. A large proportion of budget will be spent on digitalising education which will provide opportunities for Australian education providers and EdTech companies to deliver technology and learning solutions.