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COVID-19: Higher Education challenges and responses

The International Association of Universities is closely monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education around the world.

Below you will find resources pages compiled by the IAU. They offer information about latest developments regarding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on universities, share recommendations and initiatives, offer opportunities to engage or exchange and provide a selection of recent country-based and international news items regarding higher education and COVID-19.

IAU has published two reports on the impact of COVID-19:

IAU also published a joint paper in collaboration with the Erasmus Student Network on COVID-19 Impact on Higher Education: Institutional and Students Perspectives.

A Webinar Series on the Future of Higher Education - short, medium and long-term perspectives is conducted by IAU until 9 December.

HEIs and organisations from around the world engaged in developing responses to COVID-19 are invited to share these through this channel as well.
Contact: [email protected] and [email protected].

Follow us on Twitter @IAU_IAU and tweet about your institution/organization’s initiatives to fight COVID-19 using: #IAUcovid19


The extraordinary session of the Global Education Meeting (2020 GEM) held on 22 October resulted in the 2020 GEM Declaration which commits to protecting education finance and identified priority actions to accelerate progress towards SDG4 in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

More than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are affected by school and university closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. On this page, please find some of the recommendations for higher education institutions to carry on with teaching and learning activities during this socio-economic, cultural and health crisis and also on how to address the future.

SDG‐Education 2030 Steering Committee calls on all governments and partners to respect the policy recommendations in their response to COVID‐19.

World Bank published the policy paper "COVID-19 Crisis Response: Supporting tertiary education for continuity, adaptation, and innovation".

Giorgio Marinoni, IAU, and Hans de Wit, Boston College Center for International Higher Education, wrote an article published in University World News ‘A severe risk of growing inequality between universities’ based on the results of IAU’s Global Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education. Hilligje van’t Land, IAU, coauthored the article "Universities must help shape the post-COVID-19 world" with Ira Harkavy (Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania), Sjur Bergan (Council of Europe) and Tony Gallagher (QUB, Belfast). The article argues that, a better post-COVID-19 world "requires democratic civic universities dedicated to producing knowledge and educating ethical, empathetic students for just and sustainable democratic societies" (18 April).

Brazilian Association for International Education (FAUBAI) regularly updates a COVID-19 repository that collects information at the national level on the progress of measures, recommendations and scientific advances to fight the pandemic.

Educause is a resource page created to help higher education institutions plan for possible campus disruption by COVID-19.

European Association for International Education (EAIE) shares set of recommendations on how higher education institutions can respond to COVID-19 and a document on how institutions can support students affected by coronavirus.

European Students’ Union, COVID-19 Position Paper- A multidimensional crisis that affects us all.

OECD has released Education Responses to COVID-19: Implementing a Way Forward. The paper proposes a framework and recommendations to help governments form and implement strategy for education responses to COVID-19.

Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) has posted a Strategy for Gradual Reopening of HEIs. The document outlines a reopening plan that draws on strategies adopted by universities worldwide.

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Colleges, Universities, and Higher Learning Plan, Prepare, and Respond.

United Nations - The UN Secretary-General Policy Brief ‘Education during COVID-19 and beyond’ was launched in August. It warns that the pandemic has created severe disruption in the world’s education systems in history and is threatening a loss of learning that may stretch beyond one generation of students. The Brief calls for national authorities and the international community to come together to place education at the forefront of recovery agendas and protect investment in education

UK Government Dept. of Education Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses

Universities UK portal on Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Information for universities.

The UK Department for Education has updated its Guidance for universities to help universities make campuses as safe as possible for students and staff as part of their wider COVID-secure measures.

The United States Agency for International Development (US AID) released in October 2020 Higher Education Response to COVID-19: A Landscape Map of USAID Partner Countries.

O.P. Jindal Global University and the Association of Indian Universities published a COVID-19 response Toolkit for Indian Higher Education Institutions: Institutional Resilience for academic planning and continuity.


Nationwide closures impact over 90% of the world’s student population. In this tab you will find information on how organizations monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the higher education community. A selection of survey reports on the impact of COVID-19 is also presented.




World Bank traces in real time the closure of schools by country and proposes key resources to address the health crisis.

World Economic Forum analyses how COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of higher education.

Council of Europe develops a special webpage on COVID-19 covering good practices from Member States, Council of Europe education standards and new and existing education resources.

Agence universitaire de la francophonie (AUF) produces a weekly update monitoring publications related to the pandemic from higher education and partners of the AUF; and also monitors the actions of its members and partners in response to COVID-19.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) has published Online Learning in Sri Lanka’s Higher Education Institutions during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It outlines lessons and opportunities to improve online learning modalities based on the experiences of Sri Lanka, presenting the the findings of three surveys.

Asociación Colombiana de Universidades (ASCUN) monitors the actions carried out by its member universities to alleviate the effects of COVID-19.

American Council on Education shares information and resources relating to COVID-19.

Association of African Universities (AAU) offers a resource page to help higher education institutions plan for possible campus disruption by COVID-19.

Association of International Educators (NAFSA) shares a Coronavirus Critical Resources document focus on international educators and students in United States of America.

Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) has made available a web page including links to members’ websites stating their policies and the actions they are taking to face the current health crisis.

Association of Universities in the Netherlands shares updates on changes within universities and the higher education system in the Netherlands in relation to COVID-19.

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education reviews a list of resources on different topics of interest to the Higher Education community related to COVID-19. This document is intended to be a living document, so additions to the list are welcome.

Boston College Center for International Higher Education has published a Special Issue of its International Higher Education quarterly publication on the many challenges relating to the COVID-19 crisis. The publication includes 19 articles from around the world, including the article "The Impact of COVID-19 on Global Higher Education", co-written by Giorgio Marinoni (Internationalization Manager) and Hilligje van’t Land (Secretary General) of the IAU.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) shares COVID-19 resources for institutions and accreditors.

eLearning Africa and the EdTech Hub has published a report "The Effect of Covid-19 on Education in Africa and its Implications for the Use of Technology" which provides results of survey responses from over 1600 education and technology practitioners, experts, policy makers, administrators in Africa.

Erasmus Student Network develops various initiatives to assess the impact of COVID-19 on student exchange in Europe.

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of COVID-19 research and expertise in the field of international higher education.

Inside Higher Ed envisions 15 Fall Scenarios for Higher education in a time of social distancing. The article is signed by Edward J. Maloney and Joshua Kim.

Lumina Foundation launches the publication COVID’s Lessons for Global Higher Education Coping with the Present while Building a More Equitable Future. The study offers a preliminary assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education throughout the world, with a special focus on racial justice and equity.

Organización de Estados Iberoamericanos has set up its platform COVID-19 Impact on Education, Science and Culture in Ibero-America.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) (an Irish State agency) has released a report entitledA QQI Evaluation of the Impact of the COVID-19 Modifications to Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Further Education and Training (FET) and Higher Education (HE) in Ireland. The report provides an analysis of experiences reported by institutions in how they adapted their teaching and the measures they put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

University Affairs Canada is publishing regular updates on the situation facing Canada’s universities with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universities Canada shares information and resources from the government as well as links to how universities are creating solutions to operating in the context of COVID-19.

Universities South Africa (USAf) shares the messages that member universities are circulating amongst their campus communities.


IAU is closely monitoring the various impacts of COVID-19 on the higher education community. In order to better do so, IAU has developed a first Global Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education. The Survey Report is available here.

American Council on Education (ACE) shares the first monthly COVID-19 survey of college and university presidents, and a national survey administered to more than 2,000 currently enrolled U.S. college students.

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) released its first survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on German universities and international student mobility in Germany. has released statistics based on 7,400 responses to a recent survey on the impact of COVID-19 on study abroad.

Erasmus Student Network has published a report on the results of a survey of 22,000 international students in Europe regarding the impact of COVID-19 on their mobility experience.

European Association for International Education (EAIE) has published "Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe", a report that offers some preliminary perspectives on the impact of the coronavirus on international education.

Institute of International Education (IIE) conducted a survey that shows the effects that travel restrictions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 are having on international student mobility, and released on 14 May 2020 the results of its second survey in the COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series about the effects of COVID-19 on U.S. higher education institutions.

QS shares the International Student Survey: Global opportunities in the new higher education paradigm. This report focuses on students wishing to study in Europe.

US-based Healthy Minds Network which runs the Healthy Minds Study (HMS), in collaboration with the American College Health Association, developed a new set of survey items related to students’ experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. The new survey items focus on students’ attitudes, concerns, preventive behaviours, and their perceived supportiveness of colleges and universities related to COVID-19. The resulting report “The Impact Of Covid-19 On College Student Well-Being” still, of course, reflects the early stage of the pandemic in the USA.


The IAU survey report on the impact of Covid-19 on higher education showed that one of the key challenges encountered by higher education institutions was the sudden shift to distance learning. This challenge comes with different dimensions, most particularly the technical infrastructure, the support tools to use for distance learning, assimilating online teaching pedagogies and finally how to organize and manage exams and student assessments from distance. IAU has made a selection of useful resources in order to respond to these challenges.


UNESCO and the World Bank propose a useful list of digital learning management tools for computers as well as phones. Both lists are a rich set of different tools that can support the distance learning and it provides a quick overview of what is available:

  • Commission on Higher Education (CHED) launched an online portal containing free learning materials for students and educators in tertiary education.


Moving from face-to-face to distance learning, is more than replicating face-to-face learning online, it is about understanding how to mobilize and best engage with the students, it is about generating a sense of community and collaboration and it is an opportunity to work differently and make use of different opportunities that face-to-face learning may not offer. It is not a judgement of one being better than the other, but rather an acknowledgement that there are different ways of maximizing the impact of face-to-face and distance learning. This section provides useful resources to support the shift to distance learning. It also list resources for blended learning as we believe that this current experience may lead to an increase of blended learning opportunities in the post pandemic world.

  • Improve distance learning:

Watch the 1 hour webinar: How to Move Your Course Online Quickly and Effectively, by Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd, Chief Innovation Officer at Contact North, Canada. This webinar provides a succinct and useful overview of the different dimensions to consider when shifting to distance learning.

Contact North is proposing a series of webinars on different aspects of distance learning and they are available here.

Conference of Principals of Spanish Universities (CRUE) in collaboration with the distance learning universities UNED and UOC, has launched a portal with a series of recommendations and advice for planning and structuring teaching by distance (the portal is in Spanish).

Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has released “Guidelines on Distance Education during COVID-19” with policy advice and practical tips on the use of distance-education (DE) methods, tools and appropriate technology as a response to the COVID-19 crisis with the objective to assist stakeholders to use distance learning effectively.

Deaking University, Australia is offering a free online course: Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design. The course offered on the FutureLearn portal and it constitutes the first part out of 5 courses on Digital Learning, Design and Assessment (Estimated time required: 6 hours).

  • Tools for blended learning:

In the transition towards a post pandemic world, it is likely that the distance learning experience will generate innovations in terms of teaching and learning. Below we present a selection of resources specifically related to blended learning, which is a combination of face-to-face and distance learning.

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education (EMBED), is a framework which can be used to assess conceptual or implementation issues regarding blended learning, teaching and education. It indicates which dimensions are relevant for lecturers and educators, but also institutions, policymakers and educational centres. It aims to help, inspire and guide anyone who wants to implement or improve blended learning in their institution. The model has been developed by KU Leuven, TU Delft, the University of Edinburgh, Dublin City University, Aarhus University and Tampere University of Applied Sciences and it coordinated by EADTU.

You can also enroll for the online course developed in relation to this project: Improve high-quality and mature blended learning practice in higher education (expected time required: 10 hours).

Blended learning for quality higher education: selected case studies on implementation from Asia-Pacific is an open access publication by the UNESCO Office in Bangkok, Thailand. It explores how leading institutions in Asia-Pacific build capacity through a holistic approach to drive, sustain and scale their blended learning practices. It is a compilation of case studies from a range of experienced higher education institutions in the Asia-Pacific region where they showcase promising practices and lessons learned. It serves as a sounding board for institutional leaders and policymakers to drive and support blended learning based on current and future needs.

Guide to Blended Learning by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an introduction using technology and distance education teaching strategies with traditional, face-to-face classroom activities. This Guide has been designed to assist teachers adopt blended learning strategies through a step-by-step approach taking constructivist and design-based approach and reflecting on decisions taken to provide authentic learning experience in their own contexts. It provides a general discussion of types of blended learning in reference to the level of education, the needs of the students, and the subject being taught. This discussion and associated activities also review pedagogy, materials, and technology usage. Divided into eight chapters, each of these provides an overview video that triggers learning events for the teachers to focus and work on implementing blending learning.


Report on Remote Assessment Procedures is published by CRUE. The main objective of the report is to offer a holistic report on remote assessment procedure options, which considers every facet of the process: methodological, regulatory (including data protection) and technological. It is useful to understand different options and possibilities.

Indiana University proposes a page with resources for assessments and final exams from distance. It includes examples for moving exams online as well as developing alternative assessment forms during this time of crisis.


This tab contains a selection of recent news on actions taken around the globe to respond to the current health crisis.


Select region of interest: Africa - Arab States - Asia and the Pacific - Europe - Latin America - North America

- Worldwide

How universities are changing in the wake of COVID-19.

15 October
Under-represented and unheard: Women in COVID-19 news.

10 October
US and UK universities hit by thousands of new COVID cases.

19 September
Students: the missing perspective on the COVID experience - Article by IAU.

16 August
COVID-19 obliterated Higher Ed’s Technical Status Quo. Will it last ?.

15 August
The future of digital assessment : COVID-19, short courses and beyond.

9 August
COVID-19 is widening inequality in higher education.

2 August
3 things COVID-19 will end in higher education.

8 August
How COVID-19 could change the higher education sector permanently.

- Africa

Universities South Africa organised a recent Higher Education in Africa webinar that was titled: COVID-19 and Africa’s Higher Education System: What is going on? The discussions concluded that Online learning is integral to the future of Higher Education.

- Arab States

- Asia and the Pacific

17 October
US off bounds, Chennai students fly to European universities
18 July
Disaster preparedness would improve HE pandemic response.

- Europe

Universities Scotland has provided evidence to update the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on the university sector. The evidence covers: the implications of the SQA examination cycle; international student enrolment; the financial impact the sector is facing; support received from the Scottish and UK Governments; the steps the sector is taking for the start of the new academic year; the SFC’s review of Sustainable and Coherent Provision and supporting student mental health.
12 August
Here’s how UK plans to handle quarantining students for COVID-19.
17 August
Future students won’t forgive Universities for poor learning technology.

- Latin America

The stark COVID-19 challenges HE faces in Latin America.

- North America

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This tab contains information on calls for application and webinars to support and learn how universities are addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic.



International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) has launched the OER4Covid initiative which comprises a diverse group of almost 900 participants from 69 different countries. They are requesting help from educators to identify and prioritise local needs for open educational resources.

To access the survey, please follow the link.

Institute of Applied Linguistics (University of Warsaw) invites to take part in a research investigating how language and linguistics teachers/instructors and students/learners have been coping with the transition to remote instruction. The survey is anonymous and will solely serve scientific purposes. It should take no more than 25-38 minutes to complete; around 85% of the questions are of the quick multiple-choice type.

There are different versions of the questionnaire:

for Language Teachers
for Linguistics Instructors and TAs
for Language Learners
for Linguistics Students
for Educators in subjects other than language

QS Quacquarelli Symonds invites to take part in a new survey for university staff as part of its commitment to providing the higher education sector with data-driven insights.

To access the survey please follow this link.


On November 20, 2020 at 12pm (Dublín time) the National University of Ireland in collaboration with the Irish Universities Association (IUA) will discuss On Good Authority: Perspectives on Institutional Governance in Irish Higher Education. Click here to register in advance for this webinar.

On November 25, 2020 at 9am (New York), 2pm (GMT+0) and 4pm (Johannesburg), University World News in partnership with Mastercard Foundation will be bringing together experts and practitioners across the world from the International Association of Universities, the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program in an online webinar to discuss: How can universities improve their social impact? The speakers include: Hilligje van’t Land, Lorlene Hoyt and Maha Haidar Makki. You can register to participate here.

on 26 November at 10am to 12pm UTC IAU Secretary-General, Hilligje van’t Land, will participate in the Unesco IIEP International Institute of Educational Planning (UNESCO IIEP) strategic debate on Resilience in higher education - what lessons can we draw from COVID-19? on 26 November at 10am to 12pm UTC. The debate will examine what are the factors that foster resilience in higher education now and for the future. Speakers include: Hiligje van’t Land, Francisco Marmolejo, N.V. Varghese and Michaela Martin. Follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #StrategicDebate [3] and @IIEP_UNESCO [4]. You can [register to participate here.[


Recordings and presentations from IAU’s webinars are available here.

September 25, 2020: What happened during the Corona crisis?

Offered by Nordic Webinar Series

September 18, 2020: What are we learning from Covid 19?.

Offered by Magna Charta Observatory

August 26, 2020: How to help your students succeed in their online courses

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

August 18 and 19, 2020: Impact of COVID-19 on Education.

Offered by the RUDECOLOMBIA Doctorate in Educational Sciences of the University of Cartagena, Colombia.

August 18, 2020: Strategies and actions for returning to academic activities (Estrategias y acciones para el regreso a las actividades académicas)

Offered by UDUAL.

August 18, 2020: How to teach online effectively using Zoom

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

August 17, 2020: How to make online teaching accessible and inclusive

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

August 11, 2020: Choosing a Technology that Makes a Difference to Learning - Getting Past the Hype

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

July 27, 2020| 12pm - 2pm (UK time): Prioritising equitable access and success after the pandemic

The World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) 2020 focused on addressing the impact of COVID-19 on equitable access and success in higher education in terms of both policy and practice.

July 22 2020 to July 29 2020: Enhancing national capacities for monitoring adult learning and education

The webinars provided technical guidance to member states for further enhancing the quality and relevance of the information provided, including regarding citizenship education, the thematic focus of GRALE V which will be launched at the seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII) in Morocco in June 2022.

July 20, 2020: Building Anti-Surveillance Ed-Tech! In Conversation with Audrey Watters

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

July 14, 2020: Help your Students Succeed in Their Online Courses

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

July 8, 2020: How to Teach Online Effectively Using Zoom

Offered by Contact North/Contact Nord.

July 8, 2020: COVID-19 Impact in Africa: Opportunities for partnership and engagement

Alliance for African Partnership partnering with the African Studies Center at MSU and University World News, hosted the an AAP Public Dialogue Series.

For more information, please visit the dedicated website.

June 20, 2020: The future of internationalisation post COVID-19 : A conversation for Communities

This series of three webinars was developed by the Symbiosis Centre for International Education (Deemed University) in the framework of the European Horizons Symbiosis Chapter.

Find the report of the three episodes here !

June 10-25, 2020: The emergence of COVID-19 as a mitigating factor for the internationalisation of higher education and particularly international student mobility within ASEAN

Policy Dialogue webinar series organized by the European Union Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN region (SHARE).

June 10, 2020: Series VI: How are international partnerships affected by COVID-19?

The Research Consortium for the Sustainable Promotion of International Education (RECSIE) conducted a series of webinars dedicated to the impact of the new coronavirus on international education.

Find the report here !

June 4, 2020: Social Sciences and Societies in the age of COVID-19

Organized by the Gulf Studies Center at the College of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Office of International Affairs.

May 22, 2020: E-learning and open educational resources; reaching the unreached and opportunities for lifelong learning

Organized by All-Africa Students Union

May 20, 2020: The New Normal for Higher Education Across Asia : Post COVID World and how Universities in Asia respond

First Asia Cooperation Dialogue University Network (ACD-UN) webinar hosted by Siam University.

May 14 and 19, 2020 : The Response of Higher Education to COVID-19-Higher Education in Africa: challenges and solutions through ICT, online training, distance education and digital inclusion

Two webinars jointly organized by UNESCO Regional Offices in Abuja and Nairobi in English and French.

May 14, 2020 : Entering the new realm of International Higher Education

Organized by the Higher Education Leadership Academy (AKEPT) and the Ministry of Higher Education in collaboration with the National University of Malaysia (UKM) and the International Relations Center (UKM Global).

It discussed the impact that the current COVID-19 has had on international higher education and how universities are reacting to the situation.

May 13, 2020: Internationalisation of Russian Higher Education

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) held a series of online interviews with leading experts in the sphere of higher education dedicated to various aspects of the current COVID crisis influence on internationalization of higher education. In the first series of interviews,experts discussed issues such as student mobility, anticipated changes, aspects of offline and online education, as well as lessons universities can learn from the crisis.

May 7, 2020: The Impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Quality of Higher Education at Distance and Online

Organized by Instituto Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Calidad en Educación Superior a Distancia (CALED) along with partner institutions.

May 4, 2020 : New schools of thought: Innovative models for delivering higher education

The Economist ran an exclusive virtual panel discussion where they discussed the Future of Higher Education in a post COVID-19 world, as well as the findings from their latest report "New schools of thought : innovative models for delivering higher education". Sponsored by Qatar Foundation.

March 27, 2020: COVID-19 Crisis: How International & Immigrant Populations in Higher Education are Impacted, What Campus Leaders Need to Know

Organized by NAFSA, Association of International Educators.

Unión de Universidades de América Latina y el Caribe (UDUAL) makes available the recordings of a series of webinars analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on Latin American universities.

Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) has launched a Webinar Series to discuss the response of member countries to the COVID-19 pandemic. Themes covered so far include: Emotional and Psychosocial Health; the importance of Distance Learning, OERs and Online Resources; Effects on Student Mobility and Exchange; good practices for enhancing resilience and connectivity.

QS Quacquarelli Symonds has made available to view on-demand the following webinars:

The insights in these webinars use data from QS’ surveys of international students and universities around the world.

© IAU 2020

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