Austrade regional market update on impact of COVID-19 29 July

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

South East Asia


  • Indonesian Private Higher Education Institution Association (APTISI) stated that 70 per cent of 4,520 private higher education institutions in Indonesia have less than 1,000 students. COVID-19 has greatly impacted this group. Students from small private institutions have the greatest difficulty in accessing government support, and are therefore most vulnerable to dropping out.


  • Despite more than half of Malaysian students enrolled in private higher education institutions in Malaysia, at least 49 per cent of such institutions have been operating at a loss for the past three years, according to a Higher Education Ministry survey. These losses are expected to be exacerbated in light of the pandemic and the expected 84.1 per cent drop in foreign student enrolment this year.
  • There has been an increase however, in Chinese students entering Malaysia for international higher education. With 10 foreign branch campuses and a host of other options to gain a foreign degree in Malaysia, Chinese students will likely look to Malaysia in the short to medium term as an alternative destination to traditional markets like UK, US and Australia. TNE at regional destinations like Malaysia and Singapore will likely gain prominence as a safer option for international students as the pandemic continues.
  • When schools started re-opening on 24 June, a total of 500,440 upper secondary students from 2,440 schools and hundreds of international schools started face to face classes. Currently there are 8,845 (87%) schools operating on a one-session operation model, with 1,313 (13%) schools opting for with the two-session model. Only 52 (0.51%) schools opted for the rotational model.


  • The Department of Basic Education instructed the Regional/State Education Offices to reopen middle schools and primary schools at least one month after the reopening of high schools. High-school classes reopened on July 21 and the Ministry of Education (MoE) will take at least a month to review the challenges, difficulties and weaknesses and make changes as necessary.
  • The European Union (EU) recently disbursed €37.625 million [59.693billion MMK] to further support education reform in Myanmar. The support is granted earlier than planned to support the pandemic response and ensure a safe return to school for all children.
  • Only 19 July, the Deputy Minister of Hotels and Tourism mentioned that Myanmar is now making special arrangements for foreign investors and key personnel to return for business purposes. However, commercial flights are officially suspended until 31 July with extension expected.


  • The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that unemployment spiked to 17.7 per cent in April 2020 compared to 5.1 per cent in the same period last year. At that time, the enhanced community quarantine had halted almost three quarters of the country’s economic activity. The PSA is optimistic that employment numbers will improve in its next labour force survey as community quarantine was eased from 1 June. The Asian Development Bank expects unemployment to recover by 2022 if the projected 6.5 per cent economic growth is achieved next year.
  • The Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) announced that physical classes will be allowed from January 2021 in low-risk areas. The school year will resume on 24 August via distance learning. Meanwhile, the Philippines Commission on Higher Education (CHED) asked schools to focus on theory-based subjects in the first semester and move laboratory courses, fieldwork and courses that require in-person participation to the next semester beginning January 2021.
  • Bayan Academy, a social enterprise offering entrepreneurship and education training programs and courses for development institutions and MSMEs have secured funding from J.P. Morgan to offer online training. The following initial courses have been prioritised: “Contact Center Services”, “Virtual Assistant” and “Basic Programming”. The Philippines Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) accredited these courses. Bayan Academy is currently developing online agriculture courses and programs to support food security, job generation and regional development.
  • Globe, the Philippines’ leading telco provider, has partnered with Google for Education to support the country’s distance learning plans. Globe will be providing a comprehensive onboarding process, tailor-made teacher training and after-sales support to partner schools and institutions who are using Google for Education suite of services.




  • Education agents in Thailand were positive about changes to the student visa arrangements announced by the Australian Government on 21 July. Agents will continue to monitor interest in new visa applications to see if students will make lodgements when the borders remain closed and commercial flights are limited. A number of Thai students have received offer letters from Australian institutions but have not enrolled, preferring to wait until the borders re-open. Agents said they are keen to see the visa fee exemptions extended for their students who received their visas whilst in Thailand but were unable to travel to Australia due to the travel restrictions.
  • Several virtual student recruitment fairs will be organised by education agencies in Thailand during the month of August targeting international school students and Thai high school graduates from abroad who will receive their results in August. The aim is to recruit high school graduates wanting to pursue their undergraduate studies in the UK, US and Australia for 2021 intake.
  • AEAS will host the Australian Schools – Education Agent Workshop for Thailand on 28 August, and the Australian schools exhibition on 10 October using online channels. It will be the first time that AEAS uses virtual platforms for the two events in Thailand and follows the success of similar activities held for the China and Hong Kong markets.


  • As of 24 July, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health reported a total of 412 cases of COVID-19.
  • Vietnam has suspended the entry of all foreigners from 22 March 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 Transport has sought the Prime Minister’s approval over a plan to resume regular international flights linking Vietnam with several priority countries and territories early next month, with one weekly flight per destination. The destinations include Guangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Taiwan, Vientiane and Phnom Penh.
  • On 30 June 2020, The World Bank approved to finance a US$295 million credit for the Vietnam National University Development Project, which will improve teaching and research capacity at Vietnam National University Hanoi, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City and the University of Danang. Through investments in modern infrastructure, cutting-edge equipment and knowledge transfer, it will help accelerate the transformation of these three universities into regionally competitive institutions with advanced teaching and research capabilities.
  • According to Vietnam’s Minister of Education and Training, online teaching will be recognised as a formal method following months of experimenting as a result of the pandemic. The ministry 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 formal teaching method. This presents opportunities for Australian International Education to share expertise, experience, best practices in delivering technology curriculum in school sector in Vietnam.
  • 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. 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.
  • Vietnamese students abroad who returned to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic are permitted to study at domestic universities while they are in Vietnam. The universities are responsible for accepting overseas Vietnamese students upon their requests and capabilities to international training programs in English and joint-training programs with international universities. Universities were also considering credit exemptions for learners who had finalised similar studying programs in foreign countries in accordance with current regulations. This opens opportunities for Australian in-country delivery programs.
  • UK is now accepting study applications for 2020-21. UK Visa Application Centres in Vietnam resumed business by end of June after a temporary suspension during the pandemic.
  • From 14 July, Canada’s Immigration Ministry has established a new two-stage approval process for new study visa applications. The process provides for a conditional approval which allows students to begin their studies online while still abroad, and then to complete the application process as visa processing services are more fully restored worldwide.
  • On 15 July, U.S. Embassy and Consulate resumed visa processing for limited non-immigrant visa categories, including student visas.


  • The leaders of the 27 European Union countries agreed last week on a historic 750 billion Euro recovery fund, to help the EU rebuild after the pandemic and support investment in green and digital transitions. Known as Next Generation EU, the final deal comprises €360 billion in loans and €390 billion in grants. The President of the European Council stated the goals of the recovery are convergence, resilience and transformation with respect to repairing the damage caused by COVID-19, reforming EU economies and remodelling EU societies. The fund also includes financial coverage for the EU’s flagship research program Horizon Europe, which was trimmed as part of the negotiations. The agreement still requires ratification by the European Parliament. An increase in the Erasmus+ mobility programme budget, from the current EUR 14.7 billion to EUR 21.2 billion for the next seven years, was also confirmed as part of the EU’s long-term budget negotiations.

Czech Republic

  • Interest in study abroad within the Erasmus European mobility programme has not declined significantly despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, with only one-tenth of Czech university students deciding to cancel their plans, the National Agency for Study Abroad (DZS) said. More than 75 per cent of students still plan to study abroad for at least one semester and most universities are ready to switch to online lectures if the epidemiological situation worsens.
  • All Czech universities participating in the Erasmus programme are ready to accept foreign students as well as organising lectures online, with 63 per cent out of the 1,133 European universities that take part in the Erasmus programme now accepting students. Roughly 10 per cent of European universities do not plan to accept study abroad students at this stage, mostly in Northern Europe and Spain.
  • The budget for the Czech Erasmus+ programme is AUD 4.1 million, with around half – AUD 1.9 million – dedicated to university education.


  • According to a recent survey undertaken by the Italian research institute Censis in which three quarters of Italian universities participated, around 70 per cent completed the transition to distance learning within a week of the initial lockdown period, with the remainder transitioning within two weeks. While all universities believe they have insufficient resources, the survey highlighted the university system was nonetheless responsive and capable of activating its human and technical resources in order to ensure continuity.
  • The survey also highlighted a fear amongst universities of a decrease in enrolments due to the effect of the pandemic on family income, in addition to limitations on international student mobility.


  • The European Commission approved Slovakia’s state aid scheme worth €80 million to support research, development and testing infrastructure linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The commission said the scheme was approved to support industrial research and experimental research projects, as well as testing and expanding the infrastructure linked with the production of products linked with COVID-19, and will be administered by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sports.
  • ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage 2020 study reveals jobs in short supply. The global staffing firm carried out a survey among 24,419 employers in 44 countries, including Slovakia, and found that 57 per cent of firms in Slovakia could not find enough suitable workers last year. Trade positions, such as welders and electricians, continue to be the hardest roles to fill. The survey also shows that the demand for sales representatives and drivers remains high due to an increasing volume of online sales and logistics. The ageing population in Slovakia has, moreover, led to jobs in the health care sector growing in importance. Together with retail, logistics, and IT, these sectors grew even more during the coronavirus crisis. The long-term education system strategy should reflect these changes. Aged care could therefore be an education sector worth promoting in Slovakia.


  • Sweden has seen a 10 per cent increase in university enrolments for the autumn term, to 307,000 students. There were notable increases in distance learning (up 20% to over 110,000 students) including younger people (30% increase in students aged 19 or younger) compared with 2019. In total 453,000 people applied to study at university in Sweden, an increase of more than 13 per cent, which indicates that even with the increased numbers of university places that have been made available, there is a greater unmet demand for higher education in Sweden. The Swedish Council for Higher Education identified poorer employment opportunities in Sweden as the primary cause of these changes.

Middle East and Africa


  • About 313,837 final year senior high school students, began their West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), on Monday 20 July. The exam took place amid concerns about health protocols in place to ensure containment of the spread of the novel coronavirus. This was after the government began a phased approach to re-open schools and universities for final year students. Senior high schools partially reopened for final year students from 22 June to prepare for their WASSCE after schools were closed in March 2020, as part of the government’s measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19. All other educational facilities, private and public for non-final year students remain closed.


  • The Department of Home Affairs announcement on processing of student visas has been well received by education agents in the East Africa region. Most agents indicate there has been steady interest from students keen on studying in Australia and recent announcements on student visas will reinforce the interest.
  • The Ministry of Education is now in the process of fine tuning new guidelines that will allow face-to-face teaching and learning in schools once they re-open. The guidelines being developed will aid in the implementation of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.


  • Nigeria has released new guidelines for safe resumption of schools for all stages including recommendations for the review of existing policies, practices, and risk mitigation strategies, including distance learning centres, temporary shelters, isolation, quarantine and treatment centres, as well as systematic, phased, safe reopening that factors resource availability to meet basic requirements such as fumigation and disinfection of schools, and provision of learning materials. No dates have been mentioned for schools to resume.
  • Nigeria is committed to reconsider its stand on WASSCE after stopping its students from participating in the WASSCE. It has now resolved to consult with other WAEC member countries, including Ghana, to set a new date for examinations of its students. This was after the Federal Government suspended its decision to reopen unity (federal/public) schools across the country, and stopped students of the schools from participating in the WASSCE, amid calls by some concerned schools and individuals for the government to reconsider the decision as it will further create issues in the public education system.
  • The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria has announced that Nigerian universities may not be reopened even if the federal government orders the resumption of all schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because universities lack the needed infrastructure, including additional lecture halls, to observe social distancing protocols. The association has urged the government to address the challenges of education sector for the institutions to be up to the standard required for safe operations.


  • The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museni, indicated that a final decision on reopening of schools in Uganda will be made in September 2020. Consideration is being given for opening some schools for candidate classes only.

United Arab Emirates

  • The Ministry of Education has announced that all students, teachers and staff be screened for COVID-19 before classes commence from 30 August onwards. The first phase testing period for students of higher education institutions, teachers, administrative and teaching staff will be 16 – 20 August and for school children it will be from 23 August. The Ministry is expecting over a million school children to go through COVID-19 tests.
  • The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) has issued guidelines to reopen private schools for the new academic year. Safe operations, teaching and learning, staff and student wellbeing and community support are main dimensions on which policies are framed. The models specified to reopen schools include full school days, half school days, alternating school days, alternating school weeks or fortnights, and hybrids of other systems. The schools have to announce their reopening models by July 30.
  • ADEK has launched an innovative activity platform for students to continue learning and staying active. The platform is designed on four learning pillars: physical education and wellbeing; arts, culture and languages; enrichment; and STEM and Innovation. The platform can be accessed on

North Asia


  • The Chinese government has released a circular updating the rules for quarantine and nucleic acid testing for COVID-19 for overseas arrivals. Inbound passengers should undertake a nucleic acid test before boarding the plane to enter the country. People arriving from overseas are now allowed to undergo seven days of home quarantine after completing a week long quarantine in a designated facility if the standards for transport, living conditions and community containment measures can be met in the areas where their home residences are located. They must undertake a COVID-19 nucleic acid test two days before completing the seven-day quarantine in a designated facility, and those with negative test results will be transported to their residences to observe home quarantine.
  • A total of 1,679 undergraduate majors offered by 375 Chinese universities have been accredited by China’s Ministry of Education (MoE). The accredited majors fall into the disciplines of engineering, education and clinical medicine, according to the Higher Education Evaluation Centre of the MoE, which is working on assessing more majors in more disciplines. The accreditation recognises universities that align their programs with internationally acknowledged or domestic leading standards and ensure their students acquire knowledge, skills and capabilities that are recognised by international industry.
  • The Chinese central government has allocated 25.71 billion RMB for vocational education this year, an increase of 8.4 per cent from the previous year. The funds are designed to assist local governments in providing financial support for vocational education and to implement key reforms in the sector such as those identified in the Implementation Plan on National Vocational Education Reform.

Latin America


  • The total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 148,027. Most were cases (76,114 or 51.4%) came from community transmission.
  • Based on a collaboration between the Ministries of Education, Home Affairs and the National Interuniversity Council (CIN), a tool was developed that seeks to facilitate, in those institutions, and decide, the digital validation of students’ identity through the “Siu Quechua” platform when taking a test or final examination.
  • To prepare for return of face-to-face classes, the National Nursing Training Program (Pronafe) decided to train schools across the country in protocols, correct hand washing, respiratory hygiene, and best practices to prevent COVID-19.
  • Buenos Aires’ State Government, one of the pandemic epicenters in Argentina, announced this week that although no firm date has yet been confirmed to return to on site classes, they expect to have a resolution shortly.


  • On 24 July, official figures from the Ministry of Health reported 2,287,474 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 1,570,237 recovered cases and 80,082 deaths.
  • Due to the pandemic and the rise in the values of foreign currencies, CAPES, the federal funding agency within the Ministry of Education, has postponed all international movements planned for this year. The actions will be resumed in 2021, in agreement with the foreign institutions that receive Brazilian researchers.
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