Austrade regional market update on impact of COVID-19 2 December


Austrade provides 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



  • The European Higher Education Fair (EHEF) 2020 in Indonesia was held from 21-28 November 2020, bringing 140 leading universities in Europe. The exhibition collaborated with the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture. This virtual event included a series of webinars and presentations from various European universities. The event also provided opportunities for students, lecturers and researchers to meet online.
  • A return to face-to-face delivery for schooling in Indonesia is planned for January 2021. The decision is based on a joint decree of four ministries, the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, however the final decision will be given to local governments in each region.


  • The BAC Education Group has partnered with Coursera to roll out the ‘Coursera for Campus program’, which looks to deliver academic integrity for credit-bearing online learning, while improving student employability. Under its Student Plan, a free version of the Coursera for Campus program provides, for one course, free access annually to unlimited guided projects for hands-on learning. Coursera has been active in Malaysia, particularly since the pandemic, through its partnership with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) which provided unlimited access to 3,800 courses until 31 December 2020 as part of #mydigitalworkforce initiative to digitally upskill the Malaysian workforce. Coursera’s move to learning institutions illustrates the interest for more robust learning and an increased willingness to learn online in Malaysia as the pandemic continues.


  • The Deputy Director General of Basic Education Department, of the Ministry of Education (MoE), stated that the development of the new basic education curriculum will be conducted to complete as per the prior schedule despite the pandemic. He said that the development of new curriculum for all basic education classes will be conducted for completion in the 2022-2023 school year as scheduled. The MoE reformed the basic education system from Kindergarten to Grade 10 to a Kindergarten to Grade 12 starting in the 2016-2017 school year. According to the new system, the new curriculum has been so far used for Kindergarten, Grades 1-4, Grade 7 and Grade 10. The MoE has scheduled the use of new curriculum for Grade 5, Grade 8 and Grade 11 in the upcoming 2021-2022 school year and for Grade 9 and Grade 12 in the 2022-2023 school year.
  • Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in March, Myanmar has witnessed a tremendous increase in use of digital learning across the country, as both businesses and individuals moved online to adapt to the new normal. With the continuous support of the Australian government, the Ministry of Commerce E-Commerce Innovation Challenge competition has been launched to combat the challenges faced by the COVID-19 and to support further development of the e-commerce industry in Myanmar. This initiative is expected to benefit start-ups and small businesses in financial technology, banking, logistics and education. The competition is part of the initiation of the Myanmar COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan and will also be funded by the UNDP.


  • The Thai government has introduced a graduate job creation scheme by subsidising the salaries of new graduates employed by the private sector —part of a move to revive an economy devastated by the pandemic. The government will pay 50 per cent of salaries for new graduates recruited by participating companies during the one-year period starting from October 2020. Salaries will be set at 15,000 baht (A$680) for university graduates, 11,500 baht (A$520) for graduates with advanced vocational certificates and 9,400 baht (A$428) for graduates with standard vocational certificates. The subsidies will cost the state about 23.48 billion baht (A$1 billion). According to the Thai government, there were about 500,000 jobless new graduates looking for employment, out of the 524,893 new graduates this year.
  • With the COVID-19 travel restrictions, academic tutorial schools in Thailand have benefited from the increase in students attending university preparation courses in Thailand. One of these tutorial schools is Newton Sixth Form, established in March 2019, which is planning to open a second campus in Bangkok in July 2021. Newton offers tuition A-level subjects: mathematics, further mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology for high school students who would like to enter world top universities. Targeted students are those that have completed at least 5 GCSE/IGCSE subjects or students who have completed at least Mathayom 5 of the Thai curriculum, wishing to pursue their A-levels.
  • New Zealand’s Government has announced an extension of the offshore temporary visa service until February 2021, which includes student visas. Students previously have not been able to apply for visas outside the country. According to Thai education agents specialising in New Zealand education, the visa processing suspension has impacted students and parents who may seek a refund after lodging school applications. Meanwhile current enrolled students who have returned to Thailand during the COVID-19 period have had to continue their studies online as they were unable to renew their student visas to fly back to study on campus in New Zealand.


  • Vietnam remains the sixth leading country of origin for all international higher education students in the US in 2019-20, with 23,777 students studying at higher education institutions in the US. According to the Institute of International Education’s annual “Open Doors” Report, Vietnamese students contribute US$827 million to the US economy annually. With a total of approximately 26,000 Vietnamese students pursuing studies at all levels in the states, the US Mission to Vietnam is actively promoting opportunities for Vietnamese students to study in the US through its Education USA services, American Centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and American Hangouts in Can Tho City and An Giang Province.
  • On 12 November, Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training hosted an online conference on student mobility and higher education quality assurance among ASEAN+3 countries (the 10 ASEAN nations plus China, Japan and South Korea). Participating countries shared their initiatives to improve tertiary education quality and to promote a ‘new normal environment’ in the context of COVID-19. They also discussed a plan to develop information portals of higher education institutions in ASEAN+3 in order to promote international learning opportunities in the countries. This will help enhance higher education cooperation of the participating countries and potentially present competition to Australian international education in the coming years.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam has officially issued Circular 38 granting the regulatory authority for the delivery of joint qualifications on online platforms. This is an outcome of the project “Building Vietnam’s Quality Assurance Capabilities of Blended and Online Higher Education Courses and Qualifications”, funded and executed by Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment. The circular presents opportunities for Australian education providers to develop new TNE models with Vietnamese academic institutions and promote online education capabilities of Australia.


  • Many countries in Europe continue to be under various levels of restrictions as they endeavour to slow the significant second wave of COVID-19 that has swept across the region. Discussions are underway among many governments with respect to the upcoming Christmas-New Year holiday period to determine which restrictions will remain in place in order to try and avoid a third wave occurring in the new year.

Czech Republic

  • Austrade Prague presented Study in Australia at Gaudeamus, the biggest education fair (run online due to COVID-19 restrictions) in Central Europe. The goal of Gaudeamus is to present local universities and study abroad options to secondary school leavers contemplating their higher education study careers. The online version of the education fair ran over six days and had over 20,000 viewings. The fair was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.


  • Rospotrebnadzorn (consumer protection federal agency) has published a draft resolution of the Chief State Sanitary Doctor in which the special requirements for the operation of schools and other children’s organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic are to be extended until 2022. This will include temperature measurement, hand antiseptic solutions, cancellation of public events, dedicated classrooms, and other restrictions. Russian Ministry of Education also considers new dates for graduate exams at secondary schools.
  • Minister of Higher Education and Science Falkov stated that Russia is not ready to accept foreign students due to the worsened COVID-19 situation since September. According to Falkov, about 98,000 students remain overseas. While 152 universities have moved to online education only, many others work in a blended format.
  • A scientific and technological cluster with a center of competences in the field of sports will be established as part of the Strategy for the Development of Physical Culture and Sports 2030. International education is one of the 11 priority areas of the Strategy. Among few key stakeholders are Lomonosov Moscow State University, Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Ministry of Sports, higher education institutions, the Federal Medical and Biological Agency.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The eLearning platform Aqdar, is the first Emirati program designed to provide a deep understanding of Cyber Crime Act, for all society sectors in the UAE. The platform launched the Aqdar eSafe initiative in all public and private schools in the UAE. The initiative aims to build a smart security structure in schools in accordance with the European Union standards for safe internet.
  • The Dubai’s Knowledge Human and Development Authority (KHDA) in partnership with the Government of South Australia commenced its annual wellbeing census for students and teachers on 1 November. Nearly 100,000 students from Grades 6 to 12 and 20,000 teachers across Dubai’s private schools are expected to participate in the survey. The schools are looking forward to receiving the result data as it would help them to better understand how students are feeling amid COVID-19.

South Africa

  • The Minister of Higher Education and Training announced that all universities will complete the 2020 academic year by mid-March 2021. Twenty five universities are set to start the 2021 academic year at end of March 2021 and one university in April. This aligns well with the release of the Basic Education National Senior Certificate results, which are expected to be released on the 23 February 2021. The 2020 academic year will finish by 15 December, and marking, moderation and results processing for colleges will therefore run over into January 2021 as a result of COVID-19.
  • The start of the 2021 academic year for TVET colleges will be delayed by three weeks, with returning students reporting to campuses on 25 January 2021.
  • The Minister also launched the 2020 National List of Occupations in High Demand in South Africa. The list reflects the work undertaken by the DHET, through the Labour Market Intelligence research program, to support human resource development in the country. This list is updated every two years and marks an important step towards a clearer understanding of the needs of the labour market, and signals opportunities for students and graduates to find employment. This list is based on a thorough review of international good practice and information about global occupations in high demand, as well as stakeholder engagements. Many of the occupations on the list can be associated with key areas and sectors identified as crucial for the Reconstruction and Recovery Plan such as the digital economy, energy, infrastructure development, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, data scientists, web developer, computer network technician, electrical engineer, concentrated solar power process controller, mechatronic technician, toolmaker, gaming worker, crop produce analyst, agricultural scientist, just to name a few. Universities, TVET Colleges and private education and training institutions as well as other training providers are encouraged to use this list to inform their selection of program offerings, their resource allocations and enrolment planning processes, also to identify and develop new qualifications and programs that are more responsive to the needs of the economy and society as a whole.


  • The Teachers Service Commission that is responsible for human resources management in the education sector in Kenya, will be setting up an institute for continuous professional development. This has been informed by gaps noted in areas such as classroom management, effective teaching approaches and professionalism. All practicing teachers in public institutions will be expected to take the courses and pay for them. A few local institutions have been identified to offer the modules. This may present partnership opportunities for Australian institutions.


  • The Iranian government has introduced a lockdown from 21 November for two weeks as the number of COVID-19 related deaths has doubled to more than 400 per day. The government has ordered the move from partial lockdown to the full lockdown in 150 cities, including the capital city Tehran. Only essential businesses will be allowed to remain open.
  • The education sector, including universities and schools, has been delivering courses online, through different local media platforms and the international TV channels. It is anticipated that they will continue the virtual classes until end of this academic year i.e. June 2021.

North Asia


  • The Austrade Greater China Education team hosted a virtual Australia-Greater China Education Summit on 26 November, with about 278 participants. As previous years, the aim of the annual Summit was to bring together Australian international education stakeholders in Greater China to consider the current state of the market and the priorities of Australian government agencies, as well as to help inform and shape future market plans. This year, in addition to hearing updates from key government agencies and sector experts, the Summit also served as an opportunity for stakeholders to learn more about the government’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Please refer to this link for a video recording of the Summit.
  • On 23 November, Austrade hosted a session as part of China’s GET (Global Education Technology) Summit to highlight the capabilities of the Australian edtech sector to Chinese edtech stakeholders. The GET Summit is one of the largest edtech conferences in China. Organised by JMDEdu, the event was first held in 2015, with the 2020 event attracting more than 13,972 attendees from 42 countries and regions. The Australian session featured three guest speakers sharing their experience and knowledge of the Australian sector:
    • Joey Li, Co-founder of Smart Stone Technology
    • Michael Penfold, Regional Manager, Europe & Asia, Mathspace
    • Peter Wang, Founder and CEO, YOUBRIO (Business Name); CON BRIO EXAMINATIONS PTY LTD (Entity Name)

    Austrade concluded the session with an overview of the Australian edtech landscape and launched the recently released Australian EdTech Directory.

  • The China Education Team has recently completed a social media promotion campaign with an interactive quiz in HTML5. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of Australian capabilities in fields outside business disciplines, such as film production, digital games, sports, wine, medical technologies and architectural design. The campaign reached a total of over 486,000 media exposures and attracted over 9,700 page views.
  • Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) announced 32 new approved joint programs at bachelor or above level in the first half of 2020. They included programs with the US, UK and 14 other countries, although none from Australia. Approved disciplines include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, IT and software, medical science, and education. Please refer to the MoE website for full details (Chinese language only).
  • Austrade Taiwan Education Team organised the Study Australia Education Exhibition (SAEE) on 13-15 November, across Taichung and Taipei. The exhibition is the most important annual showcase of Australian education institutions and study opportunities in the Taiwan market. This year 22 Australian exhibitors (16 HE, 3 School, 2 VET and StudyAdelaide) were able to participate online while their authorised agents were representing them at the exhibition. Over 900 visitors came through the exhibition over the three days.
  • The Australian Visa Application Centres in Hong Kong resumed biometric enrolment services for students from 28 October. These services will support the processing of student visa applications for applicants in Hong Kong.


  • The State Emergency Commission (SEC) of Mongolia extended the hard lockdown until 10 December 2020. Since 11 November there have been over 300 locally transmitted cases confirmed.
  • The Government of Mongolia made a decision to close all education institutions until 15 February 2021.

North America

United States

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have targeted college students returning home from school for the holidays in their Thanksgiving guidance.
  • Representatives from the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and the Institute of International Education released findings from the 2020 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. The main insights saw that
    • In 2019/20, the total number of international students in the United States declined by 1.8 per cent over the prior academic year.
    • Total international students at higher education institutions in the United States and studying online outside the United States decreased by 16 per cent in Fall 2020.
    • New international student enrolment in the United States and online outside the United States has decreased by 43 per cent in Fall 2020.
    • 90 per cent of surveyed institutions report international student deferrals in Fall 2020. Responding institutions indicate that nearly 40,000 students have deferred enrolment to a future term.

    The National Center for Education Statistics has announced that the next testing cycle of the National Assessment of Educational Progress will be delayed until 2022 due to remote studying and constrained in-person testing.

South Asia

  • Austrade South Asia has completed social media campaign with extraordinary response of over 8 million impressions and 77,045 people visiting India digital education hub and competition webpage. This campaign has significantly improved brand awareness of Australia as a study destination along with Australian partner universities and sponsors.
  • upGrad, the Indian edtech company, will be developing over 20,000 hours of test preparation content with investment of over A$20m. It creates an opportunity for Australian education providers to partner with upGrad to jointly develop content for test preparation segment.
  • Australian TNE promotional campaign has completed first phase in which four editorial articles from the Head of Mission or Austrade Senior Trade Commissioner were placed in Sunday Times, along with full page advertisements on courses available from eight Australian institutions. The readership of these articles are around 900,000 which helped in promoting Australian pathways study options available through joint ventures in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has over 25 joint ventures between Australiana and Sri Lankan institutes.

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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