Dear Reader,

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

Academia around the world has started to turn around conventional practices and systems with a practical approach to ensure learning and teaching continuity in the current and future times. Institutions are evaluating options to leverage and take advantage of Google or Office 365 as online, cloud-based collaboration solutions towards risk management. Infrastructure design and planning are now including virtual classrooms, labs, and high-speed internet digital assets. Despite the disruption, universities haven’t lost sight of their crucial role in addressing climate change issues collaboratively. New and alternate technologies are being developed and adopted to create environmental and economic sustainability.

International universities are maintaining their internationalisation engagement with China by continuing with research collaborations and facilitating student mobility. While strengthening their infrastructure for digital teaching, many Asian highered systems are coming around to student progression beyond the traditional year-end classroom exam formats. The sector is looking to conducive policies to increase the pace of internationalisation of higher education. This could foster more inclusion and ultimately lead to more partnerships to share content and resources between institutions in developed and developing nations.

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

Canadian universities sign charter to tackle climate change

The University of Toronto and more than a dozen Canadian universities have signed a landmark charter that aims to tackle climate change through a commitment to responsible investing practices. The “Investing to Address Climate Change” charter was initiated by the University of Toronto and McGill University. It calls on universities to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment practices; regularly measure the carbon footprints of investment portfolios and set meaningful targets to reduce them over time; and, engage with companies to encourage them to reduce emissions.

The University of California, Riverside wins USD 10 million to develop AI for sustainable agriculture

The University of California, Riverside, has won a USD 10 million grant to develop artificial intelligence that will increase the environmental and economic stability of agriculture in the Western U.S. This project will focus on the Colorado River Basin and Salinas River Valley areas, which employ more than 500,000 people and generate roughly USD 12 billion annually in revenue. Data, environmental, or agricultural science students will mostly come from UCR, while some will come from partnering institutions.

Solar Power Deal Accelerates the University of Pittsburgh’s Sustainability Progress

The University of Pittsburgh is continuing to progress towards achieving carbon neutrality through a new solar power purchase agreement that will supply approximately 13% of the Pittsburgh campus’ annual electricity usage. Under the 20-year agreement, the University will purchase all of the renewable electricity produced by a planned 20-megawatt solar power facility on the border of Allegheny and Beaver counties. Plans for the Gaucho Solar development, which would be located on 70 acres in Independence and Findlay townships, adjacent to electric utility Duquesne Light Company’s Clinton substation, are currently being reviewed by municipal authorities.

Practitioner Series: Volume 9

Teaching and learning—Changing the way we do it

Victoria University (VU) changed the landscape of Higher Education in Australia in 2018 when they introduced a revolutionary new model of student learning, known as The VU Way. Other universities require students to undertake four subjects at once over a 12-week semester followed by a period of exams and then an agonizing wait for results.

However, at VU, students complete just one subject at a time over four weeks and receive their results before moving on to the next subject. They still complete four subjects each semester; however, they attain a more in-depth focus and immersive learning experience by studying one subject at a time.

This reimagined and transformative learning and teaching model has resulted in a more positive student experience, and this is evident from the significantly improved results for all VU students. While initially introduced as an innovative model for first-year students, the student success and demand for this unique way of learning has led VU to implement it across all years of sub-bachelor and bachelor courses offered at our campuses in Melbourne and Sydney. In the latest volume of our Practitioner Series Ms. Trish McCluskey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching (Interim) at Victoria University, and Dr David Day, Program Director for the First Year and Beyond team at the University, outline a brief overview of the impact on student performance evident for all cohorts of students at all year levels, especially those students that come from low socio-economic status, non-English speaking background or Aboriginal and Torres Strait background.

Digital Future

Higher education will see a jump in cloud adoption

With uncertainty surrounding how campuses will reopen in the fall, faculty and staff need to be agile enough to evolve as the situation changes. The cloud presents several ways to help them pivot and continue school operations. Institutions that were further along in their journeys to the cloud had a much easier transition to remote learning, but even these colleges have expanded their usage in recent months. Even though institutions had things like Google or Office 365, they weren’t necessarily taking advantage of them as these full, online, cloud-based collaboration solutions. Migrating to the cloud right now may seem counterintuitive, but it will solve several significant challenges, ultimately allowing the organization to reduce risk and find innovative ways to move forward.

Super Stats

Report—Supporting graduates in a COVID-19 economy

Universities UK in their latest report has called on the government to provide universities and businesses with funding to set up paid internships for graduates, as well as an in-study interest break on the postgraduate master’s loan. It also says that due to the scale of the challenge, which will result in fewer job opportunities and increased competition for graduates, the government should support a national programme of “recovery internships”. The report points out that figures from the Institute for Student Employers estimate graduate recruitment is already down 12% compared with last year. Key findings in the report:

  • The funding from the programme would help offset the cost of employment by providing “a salary subsidy grant” to enable firms to hire a graduate for a fixed period.
  • UUK estimates that £500 million would be able to support at least 25,000 graduates to work with local businesses to have paid internships across the UK.
  • The figures are based on its 137 member universities each supporting about 200 graduates and each graduate being paid between £15,000 and £20,000 per year.
  • The report also recommends greater support to coordinate graduate internship opportunities, and changes that would support growth in “modular and bitesize learning opportunities”. 


Having the right infrastructure in higher education matters

Infrastructure plays an important role in the education sector. Classroom design, auditoriums, laboratories, campus areas, etc. are crucial elements of a learning environment. Classroom and interior design of Higher Educational Institutions have a major impact on a student’s learning and thus the outcome. There is strong evidence that high-quality infrastructure facilitates better instruction, improves student outcomes, and reduces dropout rates, among other benefits. With the COVID-19 taking a toll, institutions have started virtual classrooms, labs, high-speed internet providers as digital infrastructure is developed across the globe. The classroom environment is one of the most important predictors of a student’s achievement, where environment and design elements of the institution infrastructure have a considerable impact on a student’s academic progress. Having realized the importance of infrastructure in educational institutions, many are giving importance to this aspect of the institutions as well. Infrastructure should not just focus on facilities for students, but also teachers.

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

Reasserting universities’ value will be the focus of the Latin America summit

The virtual event will explore how to better recognize institutions’ socio-economic contributions to the region and mark the launch of THE’s Latin America University Rankings 2020. The online Times Higher Education Latin America Universities Summit 2020, which will focus on the theme “Universities for the public good: reasserting the value of higher education post-pandemic”, aims to demonstrate how fundamental these institutions are as promoters of social progress. This event will include the launch of THE Latin America University Rankings 2020 in a masterclass led by Duncan Ross, THE’s chief data officer, revealing exclusive performance data compiled from 167 research universities across thirteen countries.

Coursera and Costa Rica will train 50,000 people to confront the COVID-19 crisis

Coursera, an online education platform, will team up with Costa Rica over the next 6 months to train 50,000 people in the strategic and technical skills required for Industry 4.0. This initiative is one part of a reskilling and retooling strategy that Costa Rica currently has underway, which defines three main areas for talent development: career management, soft skills, and technical skills. The project offers different learning routes, designed according to each user profile, to enable free access to courses from some of the most prestigious universities and companies in the world. The project is the result of a collaborative effort between Coursera and the Ministries of Labour and Foreign Trade and CINDE (the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency)

Three Costa Rica public universities stand out on the list of the best in the world 

The Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), and the Universidad Nacional (UNA) appear in the list of the best universities in the world, according to the QS World University Ranking 2021. The measurement is carried out worldwide at a total of 5,500 public and private universities around the world and the results of the best 1,000 evaluated are published. The UCR is in category 571-580, while the TEC and UNA appear in category 801-1000. For the analysis and evaluation, six parameters are taken into account to evaluate: academic reputation; the reputation of employers; the ratio of teachers to students; academic appointments; the proportion of internationalization of teachers, and the proportion of internationalization of students.

South Asia

Tribhuvan University, Nepal scores deal with Microsoft to ‘Go Digital’

Tribhuvan University (TU), the renowned university in Nepal, is working proactively to start online teaching and learning amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The TU has completed a deal with Microsoft to develop its digital domain for almost 500,000 members including over 450,000 students. There is a sharp rise in e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. The TU has already completed creating accounts for teachers and students and even provided training to teachers on online teaching. Moreover, it has also initiated the process of procuring high bandwidth servers necessary for the new digital platform.

UGC (University Grants Commission), Bangladesh approves USD 1 billion budget for 46 public universities

The Bangladesh University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a budget of USD 1 billion for the country’s 46 public universities for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The budget was approved at the 158th full commission meeting of the UGC. Additionally, this year’s allocation in the budget has increased by 5% compared to last year.

Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan denounces cut in the higher education budget 

The governing body of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) deplored the sudden cut in the higher education budget. The move will dismantle the country’s higher education system by forcing the shutdown of universities, which are already suffering from historically unprecedented budgetary shortfalls and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The Commission members stressed upon the government to reconsider its decision, and take immediate steps to appropriately fund the universities to protect access to and quality of higher education. The Commission stressed that without adequate investment in higher education, the youth of Pakistan will never acquire the competencies needed to develop and compete internationally.

Sri Lanka to allow more foreign universities to enter the country

Sri Lanka is amending its University Act to permit more foreign universities to set up shop on the island, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has told European Union Ambassadors in Colombo. In the meeting with EU ambassadors, the President had expressed his interest in focusing on an IT-based education system, so that the youth are more exposed to new technologies as the number of students currently engaged in online learning platforms has increased. The EU delegation responded positively to President Gotabaya and discussed at length several ways their respective countries may be able to engage with Sri Lanka in these areas.

Country News


Foreign universities seeking to fly Chinese students back on campus

Several universities in Western countries are seeking ways to maintain their student pool from China. Queen’s University Belfast is planning to hire chartered airplanes to fly its Chinese students back to campus before the new semester in September 2020. It will arrange direct flights from Beijing to Belfast for its Chinese students. Onward travels after students arrive at Belfast City Airport will be by private coach. The university also promised in the commitment to enhance hygiene measures to ensure the students’ safety on the campus. However, considering the severity of COVID-19 in the UK, the parents are still hesitant.



Sichuan University and Oxford University launch a joint cancer research centre

The University of Oxford and China’s Sichuan University have jointly launched a centre to bolster research cooperation on gastrointestinal cancer. Representatives from the two sides signed a contract for the Sichuan University-University of Oxford Huaxi Joint Centre for Gastrointestinal Cancer during a recent video conference. The joint centre will be an open research platform where scholars from the two universities and their global counterparts can jointly carry out scientific research, launch talent-training programs, hold international academic conferences, and publish papers.




UGC (University Grants Commission) panel recommends scrapping exams for final year university students

A UGC committee has recommended to the government cancelling examinations for final year students in universities and institutes of higher education across India and evaluating them based on the previous semester examinations and internal assessments instead. The committee had been formed by the higher education regulator to suggest alternative ways of assessing university students in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused massive disruptions in schools and colleges. The committee further said that the students, who are not happy with the final marks being given to them based on previous examinations, can be given a chance to improvise their scores by taking examinations later when the pandemic subsides.



EdTech company upGrad draws USD 19 million expansion plan; partners Jamia Hamdard University, OP Jindal Global University

EdTech company upGrad has earmarked an outlay of USD 19 million for expanding courses offered through its platform, acquisitions, and partnerships, and announced its collaboration with Jamia Hamdard University and O P Jindal Global University. The announcement comes at a time when educational institutions are turning to digital platforms to hold classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns to ensure social distancing. Apart from school education, working professionals are also joining Edu-tech platforms to take courses to enhance their skills. upGrad has partnered with Jamia Hamdard University to offer an online-offline blended BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) and BCA (Bachelor of Computer Application) degrees to school pass-outs. The subsequent Master’s for these programmes, MBA and MCA have been launched as well.



UiPath Partners with Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK) To Build RPA Workforce

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software company, UiPath has joined forces with Telangana Academy for Skill and Knowledge (TASK), as part of their Academic Alliance program, to build RPA resiliency in more than 30,000 students in the next one year. Under this partnership, UiPath will initially extend the Academic Alliance program benefits to 50 plus academic partners of TASK and train 100 plus educators on RPA Design and Development. The academic partners can also incorporate RPA as part of regular university credits or offer it as a value-add program. UiPath and TASK will run joint bot building sessions to help key decision-makers, heads of departments, teaching and non-teaching community leverage the power of a digital assistant.



CBSE, ICSEboard exams cancelled, students left with many questions

CBSE’s decision to cancel pending board exams in view of the spike in COVID-19 cases has not ended the anxiety of students who say they don’t know what is next and how will this affect their next admission, further education and the career. Class XII CBSE Board students will, however, have the option of either taking the exams later or to move ahead with the assessment based on their performance in the last three internal exams. The re-exam option will not be available to class X students. The option of re-examination would not be available to the class XII, nor class X ICSE Board students.




With no physical classes until Dec 31, 2020, local varsities are switching exam methods

Malaysian public and private universities are turning to alternative ways to grade their students due to the movement control order (MCO). Students are unable to take written exams in person until Dec 31 due to the government’s move to postpone face-to-face teaching until the end of the year. As such many institutions of higher learning have switched from mostly traditional written exams to also include other methods to test their students, ranging from interviews to holding debates. A survey conducted by The Star on 61 of the 110 public and private universities in the country found that 42.6% of the institutions polled have changed the way they conduct the mid-term and final exams for most of their courses.



Malaysia unveils USD 8.17 billion stimulus package amid rising unemployment

Malaysia has launched a fourth economic stimulus package valued at USD 8.17 billion, aimed largely at checking unemployment, which has hit a 10-year high. Another USD 938 million will be allocated to benefit workers, including for upskilling programmes and to improve the welfare of freelancers.



Malaysia to allow international students to return

International students studying in Malaysia’s public and private higher learning institutions can return to the South-east Asian country to resume their studies. They need to register, as the Immigration Department needs the list given by the Education and Higher Education Ministries for reference at the airports. The government will now allow expatriates working in Malaysia to enter the country, without having to get authorization from the Immigration Department.




UAE issues guidelines on reopening universities in September 2020 

The UAE has issued guidelines on the reopening of educational institutions across the country later this year. The plan to resume study will cover government and private educational institutions; nurseries, schools, and universities. For the academic year 2020/21, schools and universities across the country will have to adhere to stringent regulations which include—Commitment to monitor the temperature of all staff, teachers, students, and others daily in all educational institutions, Sterilisation protocols for educational institutions including classrooms, laboratories, and other facilities – ensuring frequent sterilization, etc.



American University in Dubai launches unique international progression path 

As students planning to go to university this September explore alternative opportunities to study overseas, a unique international progression path that will see graduates earn two bachelor degree qualifications in four years of study becomes available in the UAE. American University in Dubai (AUD) and the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) have announced the launch of a unique international progression path that will see graduates earn two bachelor degree qualifications in four years of study. Starting in September 2020, the business administration program presents a timely opportunity for students to embark upon a collaborative international university curriculum while beginning their higher education in the UAE.



UPS and American University of Sharjah join forces to support future entrepreneurs in the UAEUPS, a global logistics solutions provider 

UPS, a global logistics solutions provider and the American University of Sharjah in the UAE, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote capacity building and knowledge sharing initiatives that support the future careers of female AUS students and alumni in the fields of entrepreneurship, supply chain management, e-commerce, customs, and global trade. The agreement, which is in line with the government’s vision to build a competitive knowledge economy. The partnership aims to place the university’s students and alumni in internships and career opportunities with UPS. Also, it will provide AUS faculty, students, and alumni an opportunity to engage with the UPS Sustainability Program and UPS’s role as the Official Logistics Partner of Expo 2020 Dubai.




The Ministry of Education and Training develops a standard for universities

The Ministry of Education and Training is to implement the Vietnam National Qualifications Framework (VQF). This will stipulate the minimum learning outcomes for a tertiary level, meaning all majors at one level must meet the minimum output standards specified in the framework. The objectives of the VQS is the equivalent recognition of Vietnamese diplomas, certificates, and qualifications to those of regional and international diplomas, certificates, and degrees. Consequently, Vietnam can source our manpower to the world.



New Vietnam-Korea university to provide skilled IT workforce

A ceremony was held in the central city of Da Nang to announce the establishment of the Vietnam–Korea University of Information and Communications Technology (VKU). Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Van Phuc told that the VKU – the sixth member of the University of Da Nang – will be important in providing the central region with a skilled workforce in information and communication technology (ICT). He expects it will create breakthroughs in teaching methods and programmes meeting regional and global standards.

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