Sannam S4 Educhat, April 2020 edition. State of facilities in Higher education

Dear Reader,

We are happy to present EduChat—the second edition of April 2020—to apprise you of key developments in the higher education space.

Higher education institutions are using their distance learning platforms to deliver their existing courses in the current COVID-19 environment; and faculty members are discovering the challenges and opportunities of this learning and teaching format. As distance learning becomes widespread across the sector, classroom instruction through screens is the new norm in the operation and infrastructure of higher education globally, and is now part of the learning experience of an entire cohort of students. There will be no going back and it is likely that aspects of this mass delivery online will continue to be incorporated into a more blended approach to learning delivery post-Covid, building on the lessons we are all learning in the sector’s rapid response to this crisis.

The use of technology is not just limited to classroom curriculum delivery but extends into all aspects of the student experience; for example, online pastoral and academic support, peer group learning, and virtual internships (international as well as domestic) and exchange programmes. The latter two being key elements of the broader internationalisation agenda in many institutions. It was important that an alternative mechanism was put in place to ensure that students could still benefit from these opportunities.

For many higher education institutions, the successful implementation and sustainability of a virtual internship or exchange program entails a buy-in from students and campus stakeholders, including leadership, faculty members and the technical support team. Now more than ever, it is important the institutions and educators explore all potential models and choose the one that best fits the students and their needs. The major investment comes in the form of people—to design, coordinate and support the virtual experience—either on campus or through a third-party provider.

These are some examples of the mass creative problem-solving with which the sector has responded worldwide to the challenges of the pandemic. It is a pivot point for higher education and the time for educational leaders to continue to diversify the various ways in which their students gain global perspectives and skills for the 21st century.

Thank you in advance for your feedback which would help us to improve the quality and impact of the forthcoming issues.

Happy Reading and Stay Safe!!

Sustainability Goals

Universities Form Global Network on Climate Change

Several of the world’s top universities have teamed up to press for action on climate change.The International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA), showcases climate change research from 40 universities in 18 countries across six continents. The group includes institutions with global strengths in key disciplines for both analyzing and resolving climate change, such as engineering, economics, law, social science and planning, as well as climate science.

Qatar university launches COVID-19 global virtual design & innovation competition to contribute to SDG goals

Qatar University’s College of Engineering (QU-CENG) has announced the launch of the COVID-19 Global Virtual Design & Innovation Competition under the theme of “Re-Engineer the Future of Healthcare and Improve Lives—”Design with Impact”. This competition aims to contribute to the reduction of the coronavirus (COVID 19) effect, and contribute to the United Nations (SDG) Goals — ‘Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’, UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number three.

Practitioner Series: Volume 7

The Hidden Burden: Tax Exposures for Foreign Higher-Ed Institutions in India

The COVID-19 Pandemic is engulfing our world and invoking unprecedented responses and strategies. Global HE, as well as businesses and organisations, is facing drastic challenges that will re-define the basics of running international operations. The coming years, probably atleast the first-half of this decade, will see a paradigm shift where economies, institutions, and companies will not only re-orient themselves but will also change their cultures and ecosystems. Within this re-alignment, the international higher-education sector can be at the forefront of change. Despite these uncertain times, India will remain as important as ever, and continue to be a top source market for global institutions seeking to meet their international objectives. In the latest volume of our Practitioner Series Mr. Kapil Dua, Co-Founder and Managing Director, APAC and Mr. Abhinav Sood, Head of Client Relations and International Projects-Financial Consulting at Sannam S4 outline why India will remain an important market for international institutions.

They further highlight key regulations that will require a proper impact assessment of taxation, recognizing potential savings and alternate strategies for collaborative development, implementation and the understanding of compliance requirements.

Digital Future

What does the shift to virtual learning mean for the future of higher ed

Tectonic shifts in society and business occur when unexpected events force widespread experimentation around a new idea. Right now, the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote teaching. With the current experiment, students, professors, and university administrators must keep a record of which classes are benefiting from being taught remotely and which ones are not going so well. These data points can inform future decisions about when—and why—some classes should be taught remotely, which ones should remain on the campus, and which within-campus classes should be supplemented or complemented by technology.

Super Stats

EAIE launches the report ‘Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe’—effect on the European HEI in terms of student and staff mobility, campus cultures, and the day-to-day work of internationalisation.

Since the advent of the Erasmus mobility programme over 30 years ago, international education in Europe has been in a healthy and sustained growth mode. There has been rise in mobility numbers; expanding networks and partnerships; wider scope of engagement across countries, institutions and all manner of stakeholders; and an ever-deepening understanding of the potential of internationalisation in higher education to contribute to the common good.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, international education as has been practiced over the last three decades faces striking challenges. Based on over 800 survey responses from practitioners across the European Higher Education Area, ‘Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe’ analyses the impact of coronavirus on mobility, campus culture and more. What has been the impact so far of COVID-19 on international education, and how are HEIs responding to these unprecedented new challenges.

Education Fairs –  India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan

Our Education Team compiles all the education fairs that are happening in South Asia.

Regional News

Latin America

The University of Costa Rica along with the social security fund plan to produce a drug to fight COVID-19

The Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) and the University of Costa Rica (UCR) are using all the potential of the Clodomiro Picado Institute, the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (Incense-UCR) to produce a drug to fight COVID-19. The quality control tests of the immunoglobulin preparations purified with the methodology developed by the Clodomiro Picado Institute have already been evaluated. The results have shown that they comply with all the international standards required for these drugs.

Higher education entrance exams postponed in Cuba due to pandemic

The Cuban Ministry of Higher Education (MES) postponed the higher education entrance exams corresponding to this school year until the health situation (caused by the pandemic) of coronavirus allows it. The tests were originally planned for early May. The MES explains that the decision was made taking into account compliance with the phase plan approved by the National Working Group, which dictates the measures to face the pandemic on the island.

Cuban President highlights the contribution of universities in 2019

The President of Cuba has highlighted the contribution of universities during 2019 to the development of the country in terms of innovation and links with national companies. The government has emphasised linking university students and teachers to projects in strategic sectors to boost the application of science and technology at the societal level.

South Asia

Nepal to promote distance education in lockdown

As the nationwide lockdown introduced to control the coronavirus outbreak in the country is being extended time and again, it is not yet certain when the educational institutions including schools, colleges, and universities will reopen. Considering that, the government is preparing to promote distance education during this period. The government has also formed a committee to prepare immediate, mid-term and long-term plans about distance learning in Nepal.

Allianz Sri Lanka supports KDU University Hospital to combat COVID-19

The management and employees of Allianz Sri Lanka-a global insurance provider, joined hands with the University Hospital of Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) to provide a High-Performance Real-Time Quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) machine worth USD 20 thousand to test for COVID-19.

Sri Lanka-State universities to recommence in May

The Sri Lankan universities are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The University Grants Commission (UGC) said all state universities will reopen for staff on 4 May. Universities are set to reopen for final year students on 11 May and for all students on 18 May.

China will provide USD six million for the smart-university project in Pakistan

China will provide Pakistan with unrequited assistance of USD 6 million for the completion of a smart university transformation project. The project belongs to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) framework to promote Pakistan’s economic and social development. The first phase of the pilot program includes 50 public universities. The project aims to create a more attractive university environment by introducing advanced digital technologies in universities. The project will also focus on developing distance education and promoting cultural progress, thereby expanding the influence and coverage of university education.

Country News


iTutor Group—Chinese online education company helps to keep students in class amid COVID-19

When the fight against coronavirus becomes global, China’s emergency education strategy may provide some inspiration for the world to reduce interruption in learning. As a pioneer in the online education industry, iTutor Group has applied practical actions to help educate people in pandemic prevention. With its proprietary AI-driven online recruitment system, iTutor Group offers to teach employment prospects for workers in offline service industries to help more out-of-work employees in small and medium-sized enterprises ride out the storm.

China’s go-ahead for entrance exam seen as a sign of confidence

Experts have viewed the Chinese government’s decision to hold the gao kao, the national university entrance exam, in July as a sign that the government expects the country to be back on track by summer. A record high of 10.71 million students is expected to sit the in-person test, which will take place in most parts of the country on 7 and 8 July, postponed by about a month from its original date in June.

China to offer global students’ online courses in English

China’s universities and colleges will offer several high-quality courses in English to global students via an international online teaching platform to promote the massive online open course (MOOC). The Ministry of Education (MOE) will set up a committee to promote the construction of the platform and curricula while establishing an expert team to guide the operation and management of the platform.


The University Grants Commission (UGC) directs universities to set up mental health helplines for students

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has directed all universities and colleges to set up mental health helplines to address psychosocial concerns of students during the lockdown imposed to combat coronavirus. To reassure the student community to avoid any kind of stress or panic in the prevailing situation vis-a-vis their studies, health and other issues, the universities and colleges will set up mental health helplines for the purpose. The helpline will be regularly monitored and managed by counselors and identified faculty members.

Delhi University planning to hold semester exams online

With the Union government announcing an extension of the nationwide lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Delhi University is planning to conduct online examinations for its students enrolled in various under-graduate and post-graduate courses. The university has asked the Delhi University Computer Centre (DUCC) to come up with a platform for conducting the examinations online.

Govt has asked top institutes to offer open-source courses, e-learning module

The human resource development (HRD) ministry has asked top higher educational institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), to create e-learning modules for their use and open-source courses to help the larger education ecosystem. The ministry has asked them to adopt credit transfer to bring cohesion among institutions and make online and offline education seamless, as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

FLAME University reaches out to SAT/ACT test-takers to apply to its undergrad programme amid COVID-19

FLAME University, the pioneer of liberal education in India, has reached out to students with SAT or ACT scores and who were planning to study abroad to apply to its interdisciplinary undergraduate programme for the academic year commencing in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19.


Ministry urges universities to reschedule the second semester.

The Ministry of Higher Education has recommended all Public Universities (UA) to extend the period to resume the second semester for the 2019/2020 academic calendar beginning April 27, and the latest by June 1. In light of the extension, the first semester of the 2020/21 session is expected to begin in mid-October 2020, and all public universities have been advised to manage the return of their students to campus in phases and with prudence.

University of Cyberjaya digital open day offers a virtual tour of campus and courses

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging and the movement control order in place, many students and parents are left feeling lost and uncertain. Understanding this challenge, The University of Cyberjaya (UoC), formerly known as Cyberjaya University College of Medical Science, launched its Digital Open Day to make it easy for school leavers to learn more about their programmes and to virtually tour the university’s brand-new campus.


Special grading model introduced at Zayed University

After three weeks of Remote Learning, Zayed University (ZU) announced the implementation of a special grading model for courses of the Spring 2020 semester, to ensure students’ GPA won’t get affected due to current circumstances. The Pass/No Pass (P/NP) model, which has been adopted by several reputable higher education institutions regionally and globally, will apply to all undergraduate and graduate students of ZU.

Combating COVID-19: Khalifa University in UAE develops emergency ventilators

Researchers at Khalifa University’s Healthcare Engineering Innovation Centre, HEIC, are stepping up to serve the UAE’s project to develop emergency ventilators. The researchers have developed a working prototype and are now engineering the production plant to be able to produce the ventilators at scale to meet rising local and global demands. The team aims to have the plan for the production plant finalized and the first units ready to support the UAE’s fight against COVID-19.


Higher education programmes in Vietnam to be standardized

The Prime Minister has issued the decision about an implementation plan for developing a National Educational Level Framework in Vietnam for tertiary education in the period from 2020 – 2025. This plan aims at building a standardized framework for university training programmes of different majors and sub-majors in various industries, ensuring the training quality improvement in the future. The Ministry of Education and Training stated that this Level Framework is consistent with other international frameworks as well as the ASEAN level reference.

Universities implement different solutions to ensure timely graduation

Vietnamese universities have devised flexible plans to ensure final-year students can graduate despite the extended school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduation ceremony, which was initially scheduled to take place in April, would be delayed, final-year students who defended their theses in November 2019 could receive their degrees before the ceremony. Other students who were in their last semester at the university can choose to defend their theses in July or September.

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