Dear Reader,

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

Over the last four months, there has been profound transformation on a global scale. For those who work in the higher education sector, this time has been especially uneasy. Universities rapidly converted their programmes to online teaching and scrambled to provide new and imaginative formats for examinations. However they are quickly realizing that remote learning is a first step in the long journey to offering online education. So, it is likely the partnerships between universities and edtech companies may continue beyond the pandemic. And a different kind of educational model can be expected to emerge from COVID-19.

In South Asia, as we are easing lockdown restrictions owing to economic realities, there are concerted efforts towards phased reopening of our universities. While some countries have cancelled admission tests others have announced a revised schedules of examinations.

The pandemic has led to sharp decline in income from: the restrictions on  student mobility, business research spending, and philanthropy. Furthermore university job losses are expected to disproportionately impact research-related academic staff, particularly women, early-career researchers, and recent graduates. However adverse circumstances always lead to thinking out of the box and innovation and our sector has shown it is ready and able to do both these things. This is expected to reshape global higher education in the years to come with the hope that the harsh lessons of the pandemic will not be forgotten and will be applied with vigour to the sector and change the DNA of the sector for the better.

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

Sustainability rankings show a different side to higher education

Last year THE inaugurated its Impact Rankings on how universities are meeting the SDGs. This year’s edition, published in late April, includes 767 institutions from 86 countries that submitted data on at least four SDGs. Compared to last year there was a 38% increase in the number of participating institutions. THE expanded coverage from 11 to all 17 SDGs in this year’s edition. 21% of all participants submitted data and evidence on all 17 SDGs. In both editions of this ranking, SDG 4 (quality of education), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure), and SDG 5 (gender equality) have the greatest number of submissions from institutions. The lowest number of participating institutions occurred in SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 15 (life on land), and SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation).

Practitioner Series: Volume 8

The Role of Higher Education in Enhancing Social Enterprise

Since the advent of the internet age, higher education has become more global. The internet has allowed the learner and educator to connect globally, or, as Manuel Castells famously coined the phrase, to become a ‘Network Society’ (Castells, 1996). This network society has developed a new wave of economic, social, political, and cultural formations.

Institutions are inherent in this development: public, private, and non-government organisations. These institutions shape the way society works.

A social enterprise is now a common feature in today’s word, given the way it can influence society. In many countries across the world, social enterprise is perceived as a real problem solver, which now delivers a series of services in government.

In the latest volume of our Practitioner Series Dr. Roopinder Oberoi, an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Delhi, India, Mr. Michael Snowden a Senior Lecturer in Mentoring Studies at the University of Huddersfield, the U.K. and Mr. Jamie P. Halsall, a Reader in Social Sciences at the University of Huddersfield, the U.K., outlines a brief overview of the interlocking relationships between social enterprise and higher education in a global setting.The work comes from the findings of a UK India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI) project that the authors are currently undertaking.

Digital Future

Higher Education Needs a Long-Term Plan for Virtual Learning

The staggering impact of COVID-19 on education systems around the world is unlike anything seen in the post-war era. More than 1.6 billion students have been affected, representing over 91% of all students in the world. Unable to deliver on-campus learning, universities have scrambled to provide academic continuity through “emergency remote teaching.” At this moment, universities are (rightly) focused on ensuring academic continuity for students, and in many cases that has meant relying on existing, ready-made, online courseware from other trusted, leading institutions into their curricula. Universities that build digital capabilities will have the resilience to seamlessly pivot through any crisis, whether that’s an extended COVID-19 outbreak or a future calamity.

Super Stats

Report—Impact of the pandemic on Australia’s research workforce

A “rapid research report” suggests the pandemic will erode Australia’s research workforce on multiple fronts including university research, business research and development, medical research institutes (MRIs), and government research agencies with shocks to each sector exacerbating the damage to others. Some of the key insights of the report are:

  • Australia’s research workforce will be severely impacted by the pandemic and the effects are likely to be felt for an extended period.
  • Income to universities, medical research institutes, publicly funded research agencies, CRCs, and the industrial sector is suffering from the loss of foreign students and a sharp decline in business research spending and philanthropy.
  • To try and make ends meet as budgets contract, universities are reducing the number of casual teachers and increasing the teaching loads of permanent staff, further limiting their research capacity.
  • These impacts are greater than during the 2008 global financial crisis and are being observed internationally.
  • University job losses of up to 21,000 full-time equivalents (FTE) positions are projected over the next six months of which an estimated 7,000 could be research-related academic staff. There are concerns that women, early-career researchers, and recent graduates will disproportionately experience negative impacts.
  • Domestic and international post-graduate students comprise 57% of the university R&D workforce. Research interruptions and travel and visa restrictions suggest that more than 9000 international research students will not resume their research in 2020
  • Industry sectors may experience a reduced capacity to innovate given that universities perform approximately 43% of all applied research in Australia.


COVID crisis could see ‘learning designers’ supplant academic roles

The “next generation of academics and researchers” could be lost to better-paying occupations as deteriorating employment conditions render university careers less appealing. Students may gravitate to explicitly vocational degrees leaving arts, commerce, and some science degrees to wither on the vine. New trends could give rise to a wave of freelance academic “superstars” as institutional affiliations erode and “learning designers” supplant many traditional academics, says the report by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education. The paper analyses 10 factors likely to reshape global higher education—including uncertainties around international student flows, the online study boom, a likely narrowing of course choice, and shrinking government investment.

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

Cuba keeps exams for entering higher education

Cuba keeps exams for entering higher education, they will be carried out when the epidemiological situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic allows it. The Minister of Higher Education Jose Ramon Saborido affirmed that a schedule was established, taking September as a tentative date, which provides that applicants have thirty days to complete the consolidation of their knowledge before taking the tests. A readjustment plan was carried out to guarantee the continuity of university studies and for those who graduate. The authorities of that ministry will maintain permanent information on this plan through forum discussions and other channels.

Brazil plans to slash funding of universities by 30%

Education officials in Brazil’s far-right government say they are slashing university funding 30%. The move could affect nearly 300 public universities, faculties, and other educational institutes, according to a 2017 higher education census. University officials said the cuts would likely affect scholarships, utility services, and maintenance.

South Asia

UGC (University Grants Commission) Bangladesh: Private universities can hold online exams with conditions

The Bangladesh University Grants Commission (UGC) has permitted private universities to hold online exams to complete running semesters which have already completed 70% of the syllabus with at least 60% of students being present. The apex body for higher education finalised a directive with several guidelines including two alternative proposals for private universities for conducting online classes to finish their ongoing semesters. The Education Ministry and the UGC came up with six decisions to ensure that universities could properly run their academic activities online, including exams, and admissions.

Nepal Telecom introduces ‘E-education’ package

Nepal Telecom has introduced and implemented the ‘E-education’ package to aid universities in conducting online teaching-learning activities during the lockdown enforced by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Under this package, Nepal Telecom will provide data service at a cheaper rate than the present market price to the mobile number recommended by the educational institutions concerned.

HEC (Higher Education Commission) Pakistan considering different options for exams of university students

Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Tariq Banuri said the commission was considering different options for the examinations of university students. Talking to media, he said, the world was facing a powerful challenge in the shape of a novel coronavirus, so the students and faculties have to face and resolve the challenges of the education sector together, HEC was reviewing and adopting all necessary alternative measures regarding the students issues, but the final decision would be taken in light of governments and health experts.

Sri Lanka universities to open in three separate stages

All universities in Sri Lanka will be opened in three separate stages, according to the Sri Lanka University Grants Commission. Stage one will be for all academic and non-academic staff, and the premises will be open to them from the 04th of May. The Sri Lanka UGC said the vice-chancellors of the respective universities can decide on the staff members who need to be asked to report to work. Stage two, the final year students of universities will be permitted to enter the premises from the 11th of May. Stage three, the universities will be open for all students from the 18th of May.

Country News


Universities in China’s Guangxi reopen as epidemic wanes

South China’s Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has partially reopened its colleges and universities, with seniors and students with medicine-related majors returning to campuses, as the COVID-19 epidemic wanes. Students have to put on new masks, have body temperatures taken, disinfect their baggage, present their digital codes proving their health conditions, and register their personal information before entering. Other preventive measures include wearing masks in classes, scattered distribution of seats in classrooms, and having meals separately.

China postpones national self-taught higher education examination to August

China has postponed the national self-taught higher education examination for the first half of the year to August over coronavirus concerns. The examination, originally scheduled for April 11 and 12, will be held in August, with the national unified tests to be held on Aug 1 and 2 and the dates for provincial-level tests to be decided by provincial authorities. Beijing can make its arrangements for the exam contingent on its local epidemic control situation and make the plan public upon the approval of the MOE.

Chinese universities cancel entrance exams for foreign students

Universities in China have started cancelling entrance exams for international students, saying the move is a response to Wuhan coronavirus fears. Peking University, Renmin University of China, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have scratched exam requirements for foreigners. To protect the health of the majority of candidates during the coronavirus pandemic, the Universities have decided to cancel the written examinations for international students applying for undergraduate programmes in 2020. The school will instead conduct remote interviews for students who meet their qualifications.


Colleges to reopen starting August—University Grants Commission

College sessions will begin in August for current students and September for new ones as announced by University Grants Commission. The admission process in universities will also begin in August. Detailing the guidelines for examinations and academic calendars for the universities because of the COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent nationwide lockdown, the commission said the exams for final semester students will be conducted in July. The universities may decide whether to conduct exams online or offline keeping in view the support system available with them and ensuring the fair opportunity to all students.

Edtech companies Getmyuni and Twigz Network host India’s largest ed-tech webinar for Engineering aspirants

Leading ed-tech companies GetMyUni and Twigz Network and their education platforms Getmyuni.com, Sarvgyan.com, and Aglasem.com, in collaboration with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, hosted India’s largest online event for engineering aspirants “Exploring Engineering Careers after the Pandemic” during COVID-19 lockdown. These portals already, collectively, serve over 400 million students annually in their academic and career choices. One of its kind events saw over 10,000 registrations and 3500 attendees for the hour and a half long session.

UGC (University Grants Commission) urges universities to set up grievance redressal cell for students amid COVID crisis

The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a circular to all universities asking them to set up a cell for students to address their queries regarding examinations and other academic activities that were put on halt due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As per the latest guidelines, all universities have been advised to plan their academic activities with a focus on the safety and interest of all stakeholders and prioritising the health of all concerned. The UGC has also established a task force to monitor grievances of students, teachers, and institutions and to redress them.


Post-pandemic Malaysia: Universities ready to provide recovery solutions

Higher education institutions (HEIs) have much to offer in terms of ideas and expertise in helping Malaysians get back on their feet as well as keep the country safe post-COVID-19 crisis. With 20,000 academicians and researchers and of that figure, 3,000 are professors and 4,000 are associate professors, the community can help provide solutions to the government in addressing issues arising from the outbreak. The Ministry of Higher Education had recently announced the availability of COVID-19 research grants to lecturers from public universities as well as private higher education institutions.

International students advised to apply for and renew passes

International students who have received offer letters from Malaysian higher education institutions (HEIs) are reminded to apply for student passes as part of their enrolment requirements. With the current travel restriction to Malaysia, institutions must ensure that student applications have been submitted and processed to be sent to the Immigration department for the approval of the electronic visa approval letter. The student pass unit immigration department Malaysia located at Menara at one and in Cyberjaya would remain closed until the movement control order (MCO) was lifted.


UAE’s ministry extends deadline for applications to higher education institutions, external scholarships

The Ministry of Education in the UAE has extended the deadline for receiving applications to government higher education institutions and external scholarships for the 2020-2021 semester from April 30 to May 16, 2020. This move was to safeguard the future of Grade 12 students and guarantee their right to higher education. The ministry began the application process on November 10, 2019, for Grade 12 students who were UAE citizens or the children of female citizens wishing to enrol in higher education institutions affiliated with the unified registration system.

Dubai Future Academy highlights UAE’s distance learning strategy

The virtual session was held for the first time as part of the Ramadan Pioneer Series, by Dubai Future Academy, DFAC, in collaboration with Dubai Future Research, DFR, both of which fall under the initiatives of Dubai Future Foundation, DFF. In the era of distance learning capability brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic, a line-up of ministers and decision-makers in the education sector highlighted why it is critical to developing a sound implementation strategy to ensure the continuity of higher education and learning, during a session titled, ‘Life After COVID-19: Higher Education’. During the session, the speakers engaged in a conversation that focused on the current model of remote learning in higher education in Dubai and the UAE.

Dubai’s student housing market is a growth opportunity

Student housing is a relatively untapped market within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in general and Dubai specifically, according to a new vision paper by real estate consultancy CBRE. By the end of 2019, the existing supply for student housing in Dubai reached circa 5,200 beds across approximately 20 projects mostly located in DIAC, Dubai Land, and Dubai Media City. Most of the future supply of student accommodation is expected to be located within DIAC, adding approximately 3,000 rooms to the market by the end of 2020. Supported by continual government initiatives to strengthen the education sector and position Dubai among the top education providers in the region, coupled with the increasing presence of international education providers.


University enrolment regulations for 2020 declared

University enrolment regulations for the 2020 intake will be adjusted to improve limitations in the university entrance exam last year, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) declared. The regulations will be applied for all university and college admission and this year, institutions will not enrol for the intermediate training level like before and will concentrate on the college and university training level only. The regulations this year also added that students studying a foreign curriculum at high schools in Vietnam will be allowed to take the university and college entrance exam if the curriculum is recognised by their local country and at the same level as the curriculum in Vietnam.

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