International Association of Universities
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Covid-19: Higher Education challenges and responses

The International Association of Universities, independent global NGO, created in 1950, affiliated to UNESCO, closely monitors the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education around the World. It developed a first Global Survey on the impact of COVID-19 on HE. The report will be made available in early May. It will be followed by a second global survey, co-developed with partner organisations around the world, in September. The aim is to identify the major challenges universities and other higher education institutions face in the short- medium- and long term and to help develop solutions.

To help understand the impacts and find solutions, you will find below Resources pages compiled by the IAU. It offers information about latest developments regarding the impacts of COVID19 pandemic on universities, shares recommendations and initiatives developed, offers opportunities to engage or exchange and provides for a selection of latest country based and international news items.

HEIs and Organisations from around the world developing responses to COVID-19 are invited to share these online. 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 the socio, economic, cultural and health crisis.


  • 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".

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.

Ministère français de lʼEnseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de lʼInnovation, après consultation des parties prenantes, et au regard de la situation sanitaire exceptionnelle, approuve un nouveau calendrier et modalités des concours d’entrée dans les grandes écoles qui recrutent à l’issue des classes préparatoires (C.P.G.E.).

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.




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 Global Survey on the Impact of Covid-19 in Higher Education - the survey is now closed and the data is being analyzed by the IAU team. A report will be available soon.

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):

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.

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).

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).

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

22 April
African students studying overseas or in other countries on the continent continue to face difficulties during the Covid-19 pandemic. These include lack of food, forced evictions and xenophobic hostilities.

- Arab States

- 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.


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.

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


The International Association of Universities (IAU), in collaboration with the Boston College Center for International Higher Education, held a series of free webinars on the future of higher education in the light of the global COVID-19 crisis on May 5th, 12th and 19th.

All-Africa Students Union (AASU) will held the webinar "E-Learning and Open Educational Resources; Reaching the Unreached and Opportunities for Life-long Learning" on May 22 at 11 am (UTC). The webinar will engage experts in a debate on e-learning, open educational resources and the development of solutions to the challenges higher education institutions face. Special attention will be paid to best ways for e-education to be delivered without compromising the quality of learning and how to address the needs of students or learners with Special Needs. The discussions will also focus on Africa and beyond. IAU is invited to speak.

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

  • 27 May: Educational access at higher education institutions in the age of COVID-19.
  • 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.

Association of African Universities (AAU) invites to the webinar "Mécanisme Africain De Notation De La Qualité : Logique, Avantages Et Prochaines Étapes Pour Les Universités Africaines" the next 28 May at 12pm (GMT). This series of webinars is part of the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA) project. Register for webinar. The last webinars have been recorded and can be accessed on their website.

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

  • 26 May 2020 at 2:00 p.m.- 3:00 p.m. (ET): How to Teach Online Effectively Using Zoom (Fourth Offering).Register for webinar.
  • 27 May 2020 at 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. (ET): How to Engage Online Learners in Authentic Assessment. Register for webinar.
  • 09 June 2020 at 1:00 p.m.- 2:00 p.m. (ET): The Future of Learning Management Systems. Register for webinar.
  • 19 June 2020 at 10:15 a.m. -11:15 a.m. (ET). Register for webinar.

The Institute of International Education is organising a series of webinars linked to the Covid-19 crisis.

  • May 26, 12:00pm EDT – 1:00pm EDT: Maintaining International Partnerships During Crises. Register for the webinar.
  • June 4, 11:00am EST – 12:00pm EST: How Are Campuses Continuing to Recruit International Students? Register for webinar.

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 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.5 (May 27th, 10h30 to noon (GMT+9), "Covid-19 and Paradigm Shift of International Education"
    Speakers: Deane Neibauer (University of Hawaii), Ka Ho Mok (Lingnan University) and Kazuo Kuroda (Waseda University).
  • 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.

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning invites to a webinar on "New partnerships in education governance during COVID-19" to show how, in a short space of time, new partnerships in education governance have emerged. The webinar will be held on 20 May 2020, 13:00–14:15 (CET). The programme is available at the following link.

© IAU 2020

NGO in official partnership with UNESCO in associate status
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