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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. IAU is an independent global NGO created in 1950 and officially associated with UNESCO. As part of the IAU activities, it developed a first Global Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education. The Survey Report is available HERE. It will be followed by a second global survey, co-developed with partners from around the world, in the fall. The aim is to identify the major challenges universities and other higher education institutions face in the short- medium- and long term and to share and help develop solutions.

Below you will find resources pages compiled by the IAU. They offer information about latest developments regarding the impacts of the COVID19 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.

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: and

Follow us on Twitter @IAU_IAU and tweet about your institution/organization’s initiatives to fight COVID-19 using: #IAUCOVID19 and #HigherEdTogether


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 as well on how to address the future.


  • Global Education Coalition Portal
  • 10 recommendations to plan distance learning solutions and ensure that learning remains uninterrupted during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • UNESCO COVID-19 Education issue notes: UNESCO Education Sector’s issue notes cover key topics related to the COVID-19 education response. They provide evidence of good practices, practical tips and links to important reference to mitigate the short and longer term impact of school closures.
    The issue notes are prepared collectively by UNESCO education colleagues across the world and cover several topics under nine thematic areas, namely: Health and wellbeing; Continuity of learning and teaching; Gender equity and equality; Teaching and learning; Higher education and TVET; Education and culture; Education policy and planning; Vulnerable populations, as well as Global citizenship education and Education for sustainable development.
  • Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) shares the outcomes of a webinar on higher education institutions’ support for local communities on 15 April 2020 as part of its ongoing series for members of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recording is also available on YouTube.
  • IESALC published recommendations (in Spanish) for higher education institutions in relation to the COVID-19 health crisis. These include the dissemination of reliable information to avoid alarmism, the use of institutional portals and social networks to inform on the evolution of research, the facilitation of open access courses for a higher quality of health education, the coordination of actions with the recommendations of national authorities and, the preparation of a contingency plan at institutional level.
  • IESALC provides information from 13 councils of rectors and national associations of higher education institutions (HEI) in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as 3 sub-regional networks, showing measures, plans or recommendations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The International Association of Universities (IAU) continues to offer high quality support to all its Members through services, publications and resources. The IAU Policy Statements adopted over time by the higher education community should help guide the current developments in higher education. Value based higher education is essential in particular in periods of crisis. The challenges HE faces are not institution or country specific. They are international and global. International understanding and cooperation is essential to overcome the current impacts and the many challenges and opportunities still to come. IAU, together with its Members and partners around the world, are taking concerted, innovative and critical measures to respond to the current situation.

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".

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

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

Adam Habib and Imraan Valodia published an article in Business Day magazine under the title “How universities can play a role in shaping a new post-crisis world”. The article focus on three aspects of universities’ roles in shaping our future — teaching, international collaborative research and providing space for reshaping a more equitable world.

Andrée Sursock published the article “The vital role of civic engagement for universities” where she discusses how universities have mobilised quickly as the need to act in the face of the crisis became pressing.

In his article “Is Covid-19 killing democracy?”, Guy Verhofstadt analyses how the international media have paid little attention to the growing political and institutional risks caused by the health crisis, while they have preponderantly reported on the economic and public health consequences of the coronavirus.

American Council on Education (ACE):

Asociación Colombiana de Universidades (ASCUN) issued a letter to the President of Colombia addressing concerns of higher education in the context of COVID-19.

Atlantis Group calls States worldwide to recommit themselves to the vision set out in the Sustainable Development Goals – including education and lifelong learning opportunities for all and to ringfence global funding for education systems in the wake of the immediate crisis.

Aurora Universities Network published a letter regarding the importance of the role of public support to research and development during the current pandemic, signed by 61 organisations.

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

European Civil Society for Education - Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP), outlining the risk of inequalities in online learning, the paper “COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing of all learners come first” calls on Ministries of Education to proactively stimulate teachers’ training, allocate funds for disadvantaged children and families and for marginalised learners to truly benefit from online learning that focuses on their needs first. It insists that European and national authorities include effective measures to communicate about the vital importance of good mental health and wellbeing in current online learning.

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

European University Association (EUA) presents research findings and a Statement on COVID-19 pandemic.

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


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.




  • Portal on COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response to provide immediate support to countries as they work to minimize the educational disruption and facilitate the continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable.
  • Students, teachers and parents from the UNESCO Associated Schools Network were asked to share their stories on how they are coping with school closures and continuing to learn at home. The videos and written messages can be access on the campaign page, on UNESCO’s global social media channels and YouTube playlist. The invitation remains open to share testimonies through social media tagging @unesco and using the hashtag #LearningNeverStops.
  • IESALC has released “COVID-19 y educación superior: De los efectos inmediatos al día después” (COVID-19 and higher education: Today and tomorrow) (version in Spanish and English). The report focuses primarily on the Latin American and Caribbean region, highlighting the immediate impacts of the pandemic on higher education, particularly on the most vulnerable students.
  • International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-Buenos Aires) is making available since April 14, 2020 a systematization of responses of Latin American education systems to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The article "Universities tackle the impact of COVID-19 on disadvantaged students" was prepared with inputs from six UNESCO Chairs and includes the several topics: Overcoming digital and economic divides; Including students with disabilities; Mitigating loss of livelihood; and UNESCO’s responses.

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

Council of Europe - special webpage on COVID-19 by the Education Department:

  • Good practices from Member States;
  • Council of Europe education standards;
  • New and existing education resources.

Agence universitaire de la francophonie (AUF):

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 Commonwealth Universities (ACU), invitation to join ACU virtual networks to jointly respond to COVID-19 pandemic.

Association of International Educators (NAFSA) shares

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.

Bavarian University Alliance (BUA) shares updates on situation for universities in Bavaria.

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, how it is affecting higher education around the world at the national, institutional, and individual levels, and what some of the future implications may be. 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.

Erasmus Student Network develops various initiatives to assess the impact of COVID-19 on student exchange in Europe and to support students and higher education institutions.

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.

Lumina Foundation: overview paper "Readying for the Future: COVID-19, Higher Ed, and Fairness".

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

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

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.

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.

University World News-Africa Edition:

  • Prof. Wagdy Sawahel analyses how "Academic communities respond to society’s needs", ranging from fundraising and awareness campaigns to consultancy guidance and medical initiatives, in an effort to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Prof. Damtew Teferra analyses in his article "COVID-19 – A vindictive messenger for multilateralism" the effects of COVID-19 on higher education. He states that the main ones will be a precipitous decline in government subventions to higher education due to weak revenue and income and a comparable drop in commitments from development partners, largely to research, upon which African higher education has been unduly and disproportionately dependent.
  • Emmanuel Abbey, Emmanuel Adu-Danso and Ernest Aryeetey analyse in their article “Research universities’ multiple responses to COVID-19”, how leading African universities have generally responded to the pandemic in their countries, with a focus on the 16-member African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA).


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 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. This new report brings together the results, from the more than 800 survey responses from 38 different countries across the European Higher Education Area.

Institute of International Education (IIE):

NAFSA: Association of International Educators releases the NAFSA Financial Impact Survey Summary Brief that covers the significant financial challenges and uncertainty that COVID-19 has generated for U.S. higher education in the areas of education abroad and international student and scholar programs and services.

QS shares:


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:


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

- 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

  • Egypt
    25 May
    Ayman Saleh, executive director of Ain Shams University hospitals, chaired a meeting with a high-level medical team from Nanjing University, the third largest university in China, to discuss cooperation to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak.

- Asia and the Pacific

- Europe

- 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.

Select information of interest: OPEN CALLS - WEBINARS


Bournemouth University

The university has launched a survey on the Impact of Covid-19 lockdown on academics.

European University Association

EUA has launched a call for participation in a survey on digitally enhanced learning and teaching with the aim of mapping the situation across Europe. The survey is open to all European higher education institutions and includes questions on how higher education institutions are adapting to the Covid-19 situation. Deadline: 4 June.

The University Grants Committee (UGC) and the Research Grants Council (RGC) of Hong Kong have allocated an additional $250 million under the Collaborative Research Fund and the Theme-based Research Scheme (TRS) to support the UGC-funded sector in conducting research related to COVID-19 and other novel infectious diseases (NIDs). Deadline for applications by universities: 17 July

International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)

The 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)

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

University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Together with international academic partners, University of Ljubljana is carrying out a global survey about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ life. The questionnaire is based on and extending The European Students’ Union survey (2020) and targets higher education students - on what student life looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic, including teaching and learning, social contacts, as well as how students are coping with the situation emotionally. The survey will be open until 7 June 2020. To access the survey, please follow the link.


The International Association of Universities, in collaboration with the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, conducted a series of three webinars on the future of higher education in the light of the global COVID-19 crisis.

  • The future of higher education: short, medium and long term perspectives around the world
    Tuesday 5 May, 14:00 - 15:30 CEST (Paris Time). Download presentation / Watch recording
  • The future of higher education: short, medium and long term perspectives in mid- and low-income countries
    Tuesday 12 May, 14:30 - 16:00 CEST (Paris Time). Download presentation / Recording available soon
  • The future of internationalisation of higher education: short, medium and long term perspectives
    Tuesday 19 May, 14:30 - 16:00 CEST (Paris Time). Presentation available soon / Watch recording

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

  • 10 June: The economic, food security and livelihoods impact of COVID-19 in Africa.
  • 24 June: The psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on university faculty and students.
  • 8 July: COVID-19 Impact in Africa: Opportunities for partnership and engagement.

For more information, please visit the dedicated website.

On 20th May 2020, Siam university hosted the first Asia Cooperation Dialogue University Network (ACD-UN) webinar under the theme “The New Normal for Higher Education Across Asia: Post-COVID World and How Universities in Asia Respond.” The following YouTube is video recording of the first ACD-UN Webinar.

Contact North/Contact Nord offers a series of free webinars on "How to Teach Online Effectively Using Zoom":

On Monday 4 May, 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. The webinar recording is now available here.

European University Association is organising the webinar "Covid-19 and changes in learning and teaching" on Thursday, 11 June 2020 from 14.00 to 15.00 CEST. This webinar will examine changes in learning and teaching during the coronavirus crisis: which challenges have been solved, which ones still prevail? How have higher education institutions managed to transform learning and teaching in this context?

Instituto Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Calidad en Educación Superior a Distancia (CALED) along with partner institutions, is currently running a series of online seminars on the quality and evaluation of online and distance higher education in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic. Video recordings of the first one, held 7 May and dedicated to the Impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the Quality of Higher Education at Distance and Online" are now online.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators has recorded the webinar "COVID-19 Crisis: How International & Immigrant Populations in Higher Education are Impacted, What Campus Leaders Need to Know".

The Gulf Studies Center at the College of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the Office of International Affairs invites to attend the webinar titled: "Social Sciences and Societies in the age of COVID-19" on Thursday 4 June, 2020 at 3:00pm Qatar time (2:00pm European central time, 1:00pm UK time, 8:00am US east coast time). To attend the virtual webinar, please follow the link:
Using the laptop:
Using Smart devices: Event ID: 234 855 186 | Password: covid19
LIVE Stream:

The Research Consortium for the Sustainable Promotion of International Education (RECSIE) is conducting a series of webinars dedicated to the impact of the new coronavirus on international education. The main language will be Japanese, but questions will be accepted in English. To register please visit the RECSIE website.

  • Series No. 6 (around June 10th), "How are international partnerships affected by Covid-19?"
    Speakers: Cheryl Matherly (Vice President/Vice Provost, International Affairs, Lehigh University, Past President of AIEA) and Mirko Varano (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
  • Series No. 7 (around June 24th), "Possible remedies - student mobility in Asia and the Pacific during Covid-19 pandemic"
    Speakers: Randall Martin (BCCIE), Chris Ziguras (RMIT) TBC and TBD (UMAP)

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) holds 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.

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. Video recordings can be found on SEAMEO’s Youtube channel.

UNESCO Regional Offices in Abuja and Nairobi jointly organized two webinars, in English and French, on “The Response of Higher Education to COVID-19 -Higher Education in Africa: challenges and solutions through ICT, online training, distance education and digital inclusion”, on 14 and 19 May. Recommendations were issued.

The Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) has made available online presentations and a video recording of the webinar “Entering the new realm of international Higher education”, organised on 14 May by the Higher Education Leadership Academy (AKEPT) and the Ministry of Higher Education. It discussed the impact that the current Covid-19 has had on international higher education and how universities are reacting to the situation.

© IAU 2020

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