Austrade regional market update on impact of COVID-19 27 May

Austrade will provide weekly regional updates on the progression and impact of COVID-19 around the world, to support the international education sector as the situation continues to evolve. These reports are compiled using the latest on-the-ground information and advice. The following updates include markets and regions for:

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

Association of South East Asian Nations


  • IDP recently announced the reopening of five out of their 10 IELTS testing centers across Malaysia — one of the first signs that engines for international tertiary education are reviving.
  • Cambridge Assessment has committed to releasing the Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level and Cambridge International AS and A Levels on 11 August. There are over 125 international schools in Malaysia administrating these tests.
  • At present, administrative staff, as well as post-graduate research focused students are able to return to campus. Some 31,508 post-graduate students from 462 institutions of higher learning can resume their research in laboratories, workshops and design studios under strict standard operating procedures.
  • The Ministry of Education continues to develop the standard operating procedures for both the school and higher education sectors to help the transition back to on-campus teaching.
  • While there has been no announcement on when K-12 schools will reopen, the previous strategy still stands whereby Form 5 and Upper 6 students, who are set to complete their secondary school and pre-university education, would be allowed to return to school first.


  • Education agents resume their physical activities following instruction from the Union COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Committee, while increasing their online activities. Online student counselling and virtual education expos are continuously happening, catering to interest from the school to higher education and TVET.
  • Asia Development Bank (ADB) released its Fact Sheet for Myanmar as at May 2020. The ADB operations in Myanmar will focus on infrastructure for transport, energy and urban development, education and skills training and rural development.


  • The Philippine Commission on Higher Education Chairperson (CHED) Prospero De Vera III announced at the 21 May Senate Hearing that several state universities and colleges (SUCs) decided to waive entrance examinations for Academic Year 2020-2021 for incoming tertiary/freshmen students. Some SUCs are also considering assessing their students’ final high school grades to determine admission. The CHED Chairperson reiterated that students’ final assessments and decision to graduate to the next school year level is at the discretion of academic boards of all Higher Education Institutions. This inconsistent approach to assessments will be a challenge for local and international education providers in admitting new students.
  • Private universities will now shift to the new academic calendar, from traditionally June-May to now August-July.
  • The Philippine government coronavirus taskforce approved CHED’s resolution to open classes based on the mode of teaching:
  • colleges, universities using full online can open classes anytime;
  • colleges, universities using ‘flexible’ learning can open anytime in August 2020 (combination of ‘digital and non-digital technology’, and does not necessarily require connectivity);
  • colleges, universities using residential or face-to-face mode can only open from 1 September 2020, in areas under general community quarantine (Manila and Cebu are presently under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine);
  • The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) issued a policy directive to create Disaster Resilience and Risk Management teams and develop safety precautions, protocols and reporting templates to guide schools. DepEd has also issued guidelines on Alternative Delivery Mode of Education.
  • The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is leading the development of technologies such as online systems for hospitals, applications for contact tracing, health assessment and monitoring, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) tools to support the country in its fight against COVID-19.


  • The Singapore Government has announced easing of movement restrictions in three phases after 1 June 2020 as more segments of the economy are expected to re-open in stages. Under Phase One, which will be throughout the month of June, pre-schools will re-open fully and students in their final year of studies at primary and secondary levels (Primary 6, Secondary 4 and 5) are allowed to resume classes physically at schools in preparation for the national examinations, PSLE and GCE ‘O’ Levels.
  • Businesses in essential services including manufacturers of food and essential products can re-open while the rest of the non-essential business segments continue to operate virtually. Phase Two, which starts in July, will see food and beverage establishments, as well as sports and recreation facilities re-opening gradually. However, there is no set date given as to when Singapore will start to allow business gatherings and events to resume, hence Australian institutions are advised to continue engaging the market via virtual platforms for the meantime.
  • Singapore is in talks with a number of countries to consider easing its air travel restriction, as the number of community cases remain low and countries globally begin to re-open their economies. As talks are ongoing, the list of countries under consideration has not been disclosed. Among the criteria to be evaluated include the rate of infections in the other countries, the mechanisms undertaken by those countries to combat the virus, the effectiveness of their infection control as well as the countries’ reputation in COVID-19 testing procedures.


  • The Thai government’s Department of Children and Youth has announced the opening of the next round of applications for the Australian Work and Holiday Visa program Thai citizens in July 2020 and February 2021.
    • There are 2,000 places available following last year’s agreement between the Thai and Australian governments to increase the quota from 500. The program is especially popular amongst new university graduates interested in exploring work and travel experiences in Australia.
  • Education agencies that focus on higher education in UK and the US are gradually switching to promote Australian education institutions. They expect international arrival restrictions into UK and the US to be extended until 2021.
    • Agents are encouraging prospective students to apply to Australian universities where commencements are possible in Semester 3 in September/October of this year. Meanwhile those who can wait and really want to study in the UK must apply for January 2021 at the earliest start date.
  • The Thai government scholarship agency, OCSC has implemented a new strategy for new batches of scholarship awardees due to travel restrictions in most major study abroad destinations.
    • Scholarship students will be placed in those Thai universities that offer articulation programs 2+2, 3+1 for undergraduate degrees or 1+1 for master degrees with reputed overseas universities, including Australia. Awardees can commence the programs as soon as the July/August intake. Once they complete their studies for a few years in Thailand, they can continue the rest of their programs in Australia when the situation resumes to normal.


  • As of 21 May, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed COVID-19 cases remained at 324, with 264 of the affected patients having recovered and been discharged from hospitals. The government has allowed the resumption of all non-essential services with preventive measures except for clubs and karaoke.
  • Around 4,300 Vietnamese are expected to be repatriated between 18 May and 15 June on special flights from Australia, Canada, South Korea, the UK, and the US.
  • During COVID-19, many higher education institutions have proactively invested in online education, purchasing or transferring the Learning Management System and Learning Content Management System, training lecturers and digitalising learning materials. By April, there were a total 98 higher education institutions deploying teaching online.
  • For vocation education and training, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has asked vocational training units to invest in building up elearning systems and to digitalise learning content, as well as drafting methods for online payment of tuition fees.


  • The 2020 EAIE Conference scheduled to be held in Barcelona in October will no longer take place, it will be replaced with an online event over the same dates.
  • Some European universities have started advising they are likely to continue with online learning for the first semester of the new European academic year through to February 2021. Others instead are aiming to be in a position to accommodate students on campus or offer a blended learning option with a mix of on-campus and remote learning.

United Kingdom

  • While the Education Secretary has indicated that schools in England will open again on 1 June, there is uncertainty around one of the conditions of the re-opening — the availability of an effective test, trace and isolate system. The Government has not yet announced when the new testing system will be released.


  • The Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and the Ministry of Universities will be reforming the state system of scholarships and study aids in order to ensure equal opportunities for all students regardless of their socioeconomic situation. The Government will increase the amount allocated to scholarships by 386 million euros, representing a 22 per cent increase in investment for the 2020-2021 academic year. With this increase, the most important in the last ten years, the total amount invested in the state system of scholarships and study grants is more than 1,900 million euros, which will benefit 625,514 students next year. Of these, 372,240 are from non-university levels and 252,274 are from Bachelor and Masters degrees.
  • Spain has extended the restrictions on entry through internal borders at ports and airports which came into effect on 15 May (for flights and ships originating in countries of the Schengen area). All travellers entering Spain must be in self-quarantine for 14 days after their entry. The quarantine must be undertaken at home or in rented accommodation. Trips outside will be limited to the purchase of essential products such as food and medicine, for medical assistance, and for other situations of urgent necessity and the use of facial masks will be compulsory. The measure will last until June 15, but could be extended beyond this date.


  • With the next stage of lifting the coronavirus pandemic restrictions from 25 May:
  • Universities will partly reopen to conduct the necessary classes that require students to be physically present (subject to the necessary health sanitary regulations)
  • Primary schools may reopen for children in years 1-3, subject to the necessary health sanitary regulations. The final decision is left with the regional authorities.
  • Individual student–teacher counselling at school will be allowed for year 12 students and year 8 students (in preparation for the final exams)
  • The economic situation of education agents is deteriorating, several have now suspended activity.


  • As Germany eases its coronavirus restrictions, it will commence reopening its borders in a phased manner, on a country-by-country basis. As a first step, on 15 June Germany will fully open its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland and no restrictions will apply. Entry from non-bordering countries will be banned until at least 15 June.
  • The German Research Foundation (DFG) has announced it will provide additional funding of 175 million euros for its grant projects affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The funding can be used to apply for additional personnel and material resources in order to continue and complete research that cannot currently be carried out as originally planned.

Czech Republic

  • Borders should reopen with Austria and Slovakia within the coming weeks, while borders with Germany and Poland will reopen at a later stage. The government is working on a map classifying the safety level of individual countries. The need to have a negative RT-PCR test on return or be quarantined will depend on the country the person will be returning from.
  • Prague airport has been gradually resuming regular routes to e.g. Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Düsseldorf, Stockholm, Minsk and Sofia with more to follow in the first week of June.


  • Kindergartens and schools will reopen on 1 June under strict health and safety restrictions. Participation in-class education is voluntary. Children aged 11-15 will continue in distance learning and will not return to school before end of the academic year (30 June).
  • Bratislava airport suspended all commercial flights on 13 March until further notice.
  • On 21 May Slovakia reopened borders with Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Germany without the need of RT-PCR test or quarantine if return is within 24 hours. Slovaks need to check and comply with regulations of the country they wish to travel to.


  • President Putin has announced the Unified State Exam will start from 29 June. While school certificates will be issued to all graduates no later than 15 June, exams will be taken only by students planning to enter university. Enrolments will be confirmed in August, with the academic year to start in September.
  • Following recent public discussions regarding the challenges caused by COVID-19, Russian senators submitted the bill on distance education to the State Duma. The document is focused on the regulation of the online education sector in schools and higher education institutions.
  • The Russian government has submitted a bill on e-visas for foreigners planning to enter Russia for business, tourism or study. A single entry visa, valid for 60 days and with a permit to stay up to 16 days is expected to be available from January 2021.
  • An education fair organiser, Begin Group, has launched a virtual fair platform to support recruitment in Russia and CIS, as well as a few other countries. The recruitment season for Central Asia and Russia opens in June, with more fairs offered in August and October.


  • Some airlines have recommenced flights to/from Milan Malpensa airport and some flights are also available to/from Rome Fiumicino airport; Milan Linate airport is still closed but is scheduled to re-open on 3 June, when Italian borders will be re-opened for EU, Schengen zone and UK visitors (who will not be subject to quarantine restrictions).
  • A local study has predicted that the effects of the pandemic, including a lower level of willingness to transfer to other cities to study and the reduced economic resources available to many families, may result in a significant decrease in domestic enrolments for 2020-21.
  • Italian universities are currently aiming to facilitate a return to campus for the first semester of the new academic year in September, supported by additional government funding (including Euro 165 million for disadvantaged students, Euro 40 million to support the right to study, Euro 15 million for PhD students and Euro 200 million to hire young researchers). It is possible a ‘blended’ learning approach will be implemented, with a combination of on-campus and remote learning, with online learning continuing to be available for those in need.

Middle East and Africa


  • The Omani Government has announced the suspension of the Omani National Scholarship Program (to study abroad), for postgraduate students for a year.
  • Oman currently supports more than 200 postgraduate students overseas on scholarships annually for Masters and PhDs, and approximately 1,200 students for undergraduate degrees to overseas institutions.
  • Existing students enrolled at overseas institutions will be permitted to complete their studies. No announcement has been made about undergraduate students.

Saudi Arabia

  • In a previous MIP update on 12 May the broader economic situation and the potential impact on national budgets, including education spending was noted. The Minister of Education has issued a new decision to temporarily stop a scholarship program related to teacher development. It is understood that the program will be stopped for one year/or until further notice due to budget reasons.


  • A recent study on access to virtual education in Kenya indicates that only 22 per cent of students are accessing virtual learning. The government, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), has been offering classes on radio, television and KICD website. Private schools have been using apps to continue with student learning. The government has formed a committee to advise the Ministry of Education on reviewing and reorganising the school calendar as part of the post COVID-19 recovery strategy. Having a structured elearning system may be considered by the committee.
  • The education sector will benefit from the economic stimulus package announced by the president on 23 May, AUD$92.9million will be spent to hire additional teachers and ICT interns to support digital learning among other items.


  • Following a reduction of numbers of COVID-19 cases, the government of Tanzania, has indicated a phased reopening of schools will start with Universities and A-level students on 1 June 2020.
  • More time will be required for other secondary and primary students. The country has also opened its airspace for international flights. The herd immunity strategy is being adopted to contain the pandemic.

North Asia


  • According to the latest data from 11 May, the total number of students who had resumed classes at all levels of education in China has now exceeded 100 million. As at 11 May, higher education institutions in all provinces had reopened with the exception of those in Beijing, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei and Heilongjiang.
  • Twenty major universities in Chongqing and Southwest China’s Sichuan province have established a university alliance in Chengdu to promote regional exchanges in higher education.
  • The alliance, known as the University Consortium of the Chengdu-Chongqing Twin-City Economic Circle, is one of the government efforts to better integrate the resources of the two cities. It aims to provide scientific and technological support for the development of the Economic Circle.


  • Momentum is growing for changes to the academic calendar. The Governors of Tokyo and Osaka have joined other local government leaders, in supporting the idea to shift the start of the school year from April to September. Some major companies such as Sojitz Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have also reacted positively to the proposal. September commencements would affect the timing for job hunting for graduates, which unfortunately does not match up well with the Australian academic calendar and may make it more difficult for Australian institutions to recruit Japanese university students.
  • Tobitate Scholarship cancelled for this year. The Ministry of Education (MEXT) has cancelled applications for the next round of the Tobitate scholarship for overseas study. This will see a reduction of around 1,500 Japanese students (including university and high school students) studying abroad who had been nominated for the scholarship. On top of this, increasing financial hardship among students in Japan suggests they will be less likely to venture abroad in the coming years.
  • School closures have been extended and holidays reduced. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government and many other local authorities decided to extend closures for public schools until the end of May, in line with the extension of the nationwide State of Emergency made by Prime Minister Abe on 6 May. However, schools in some regions with few cases of COVID-19 have independently decided to re-open on 7 May. Separately, MEXT Minister Hagiuda announced his support of many schools’ decisions to shorten summer holidays and related school activities to enable students to catch up with the curriculum this year. Shortening this years’ school holidays will negatively impact any planned study abroad/ study tours later in the year.
  • Education agents shifting to online engagement. Although the number of new enquiries has decreased, agents are working proactively to engage with potential students online. Some agents hold regular online counselling sessions and others are open online every day. Ryugaku Journal will hold an Online Ryugaku Seminar on 24 May as a replacement for their face-to-face study abroad fair. ICC offers an Online High School Preparation course targeting high school students who postponed their study abroad at Australian high schools. For Australian education providers, partnering with one of these education agents is recommended as one of the most effective ways to do marketing in Japan during the state of emergency and global travel restrictions.
  • Ongoing shift to online teaching. As reported last week, the national government, local authorities, universities and schools are all trying to rapidly shift to online education delivery, however hurdles remain. In addition to lack of computers and high-speed internet networks at some homes and schools there is also a lack of readiness and capacity to deliver live online classes at public schools. A recent MEXT survey indicated only 5 per cent of respondents (elementary, junior high, and high schools) said they would deliver interactive online instruction during school closures. This indicates that in addition to materials and content, Japan could also benefit from Australian expertise in teacher training in how to make the most of online education.

Hong Kong

  • International schools in Hong Kong were amongst the first to welcome students back on campus from 20 May. Local school campuses will reopen in phases starting from 27 May after a four-month suspension.
  • Hong Kong and Shenzhen officials are also in the process of considering future attendance arrangements for 27,000 cross-border students from mainland China who attend schools in Hong Kong. Options include transporting students directly from border checkpoints to their schools and making coronavirus tests mandatory.

Latin America


  • Social distancing is still compulsory in Argentina until 24 May, but this is likely to be extended. As at 22 May, there were 9,931 cases recorded with 419 deaths.
  • National Ministry of Education launched Federal Plan for Connectivity: Juana Manso, to deliver computers, create a federal teaching platform with free access and allow internet connection in the most deprived neighborhoods.
  • The Ministry of Education has started to relieve Argentina’s manufacturing capacity to produce the number of laptops necessary for the Juana Manso plan. The plan is to produce 138,000 devices per month, which is equivalent to 4,809 workers.
  • Two national universities were added to the Online Education Platform launched by Government.


  • The country is approaching 60,000 cases of COVID-19, with 6,150 deaths recorded.
  • The Federal Ministry of Education allowed each State Ministry of Education to decide on the best time to go back to school. The reason behind that decision is that some areas of the country are not as affected as others. The main focus of infection are Mexico City, Tijuana, Cancun, Culiacan and Villahermosa.


  • On Sunday 23 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 360 thousand confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 22,666 deaths.
  • Brazil closed its borders to all foreigners. For the next 30 days, people all nationalities are prohibited from entering Brazil by air, land and sea.
  • Rio de Janeiro could reopen school and commerce on 1 June . In Sao Paulo, it will be gradual and probably in July. Early childhood education should be the first level to meet the face-to-face school calendar in schools.


  • The Ministry of Health has declared 111,600 COVID patients to date with901 people in intensive care and 3,244 deaths.
  • On 22 May, the state of emergency was extended with a nationwide lockdown declared until the end of June, marking one of the longest periods of mandatory isolation in the world.
  • The Peruvian President, said the latest and fifth extension, which is more than a month beyond the previous expiration date of 24 May, would come with the reopening of certain economic activities, including household appliance sales, hair salons and dental services.
  • The National Scholarship Program, Becas Presidente de la Republica by PRONABEC has announced that the intake 2020 will start on 28 May. Australia has 28 universities eligible to be part of this scholarship scheme.
  • MATIFIC is in conversations with the Peruvian Ministry of Education, Lima Capital and El Callao Regional Government, in order to provide a platform to Schools from those Provinces.


  • As at 23 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 3,709 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Chile, totaling 69,102 cases, with 718 deaths.
  • Santiago will remain in total lockdown for this entire week with the possibility of extension.
  • Regional Flights within Chile will begin again by July.


  • The Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Health reported 998 new cases of coronavirus in the country, for a total of 21,175 infections. The total number of patients recovered from COVID-19 is 5,016while 727 have been recorded.
  • President Iván Duque made two important announcements this Tuesday in relation to COVID-19. Firstly, isolation will continue until 31 May under current conditions. Further, the extension of the health emergency to 31 August (in principle, it went until 30 May).
  • President Duque together with the Minister of Education María Victoria Ángulo explained that college and university students can return to class in August by combining work at home and on campus, with biosafety protocols, depending on the size of courses, degrees and size of the facilities.
  • According to a report by Platzi, a platform specialized in online education, during the pandemic, the rate of new students grew twice as much and the rate of taking courses more than tripled. The number of companies that have approached Platzi to increase capability of workers grew by 44 per cent.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 1,519,000 and 82,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • The Canadian international education sector’s response has had no centrally-coordinated COVID response, instead regions have been forming smaller taskforces to unify their approach. This may be due to
  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has temporarily eased some of the rules for international students seeking post-graduate work permits. International students will be eligible for a post-graduation work permit even if their courses remain online this fall due to COVID-19. Students can complete up to 50 per cent of their program outside of Canada if they are unable to travel due to restrictions. Normally, IRCC deducts time spent studying outside of Canada from the work permit period, but that won’t be the case for coursework completed abroad up to December 31 2020.
  • The federal government will provide universities and research institutions with CAD$450 million in order to keep researchers on staff. This funding will provide research institutions with temporary wage relief of up to 75 per cent (or, up to $847 per week) for each staff member who has had their industry or philanthropic funding reallocated or stall due to the pandemic. It will also contribute to restarting ‘full research operations once physical distancing measures are lifted.’

United States

  • President Trump issued a proclamation suspending entry of most new immigrants to the United States for at least 60 days. The order has also triggered a review of non-immigrant visa programs, including policies around the H-1B visa and Optional Practical Training program. Administration officials have signalled that further restrictions may be coming that could affect post-study work opportunities for foreign graduates in the US.
  • The Department of Education have extended their guidance on temporary flexibilities around distance education through the end of the year.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 700 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with colleges
    • Planning for in-person (67 per cent)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (11 per cent)
    • Waiting to decide (10 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (6 per cent)
    • Planning for online (5 per cent)
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education have also identified at least 44,368 employees and 162 institutions are associated with a layoff, furlough or non-contract renewal resulting from COVID-19.
  • A Primary Research Group survey showed that
    • Before the coronavirus pandemic 60 per cent of college instructors had taught a distance or hybrid course and
    • 22 per cent of instructors said their experience so far with online instruction has made them think of it ‘very or extremely highly’ as an educational tool that universities can use after the pandemic subsides.
  • As colleges and universities across the US decide how best to conduct fall classes, the University of Notre Dame (Indiana) and Marquette University (Wisconsin) have announced they will accelerate the fall semester by commencing earlier than usual and finishing in-person classes by Thanksgiving (November 26). The goal is to limit student travel ahead of any potential resurgence of COVID-19 infections anticipated for the winter, and to stymie potential outbreaks driven by students leaving the ‘college bubble’ only to return with an infection.
  • An EdWeek Research Centre survey saw that
    • Response to how teachers are spending more time to teaching: Troubleshooting technology problems (87%), review (59%) and enrichment (39%).
    • Response to current level of students’ current level of engagement with their schoolwork: much lower (42%), somewhat lower (40%), the same (12%).
    • Response to students’ engagement levels: declined a little (37%), stayed the same (29%), declined a lot (22%).
    • Response to most effective mechanisms for teaching: live video conferencing tools (63%), shared documents (57%), pre-recorded videos on specific concepts (49%).
    • Around a quarter (23%) of students are considered ‘truant’ during coronavirus closures.

South Asia


India’s Finance Minister has announced several education initiatives to usher in a new era of focused investment in the human capital. These initiatives provide a number of opportunities for Australian universities and EdTech companies to commercialise their e-content and scale-up business models.

The initiatives announced in this direction include:

  • PM e-Vidya program to roll-out multi-mode digital education across the country.
  • For school education, Diksha (the nationwide schools digital platform) will provide e-content and e-books for all grades, supported by 12 grade specific TV channels for grade 1-12. To increase the reach of content in areas with limited internet connectivity, the government has also integrated 32 direct-to-home TV channels to telecast high-quality education under the Swayam Prabha initiative and will also leverage 289 community radio stations.
  • Diksha and allied initiatives will provide digital content to 250 million school students. Under PM e-Vidya program, the Government is also expanding elearning in higher education by permitting India’s top 100 universities to start online courses by 30 May, other universities can deliver 40 per cent of course curriculum online. This will provide learning opportunities to 37 million higher education students.
  • Manodarpan initiative is launched to provide mental health and emotional wellbeing support through an interactive website, a toll-free helpline supported by national directory of counsellors.


  • With Austrade’s support, IDP Bangladesh hosted the first virtual Australian education fair last week, in which 33+ Australian universities and education institutions counselled 900+ students. This was the largest number of students on a platform in a single day in Bangladesh.
  • The fair was well received by students and parents as they attended from the comfort of their home, and participating institutions found many leads at one portal.

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.

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