Charting the impact of COVID-19 on UK admissions and recruitment

[This article was first published on 17th March 2020, but is being updated regularly. Last update: 14th September 2020]

A summary of school closures and exam arrangements.

News over recent months has been dominated by the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent disruption. At the peak in April, UNESCO found that there were national closures of schools and universities in 193 countries.

With the period between April and June a common period for upper secondary and undergraduate exams globally, these closures have had a significant impact on students due to graduate school/university this year.

At UK NARIC, we have been tracking delays to exams at secondary and higher education level as they’re announced. A summary by country can be found below.

In addition to the updates below, we have published a special report: The Effects of Covid-19 on International Secondary Assessment. The report looks at postponements and cancellations in selected key countries in more detail.

September marks the start of the new academic year in many countries and educational institutions have started to reopen in many regions. However, as of 7th September UNESCO found that in 49 countries schools and universities remain closed at a national level.

We will continue to track developments, particularly in relation to national exams which are due to take place towards the end of the year in some countries in the southern hemisphere.


Afghanistan: Schools and universities have begun to reopen gradually.

Bangladesh: Schools and universities remain closed and a decision has not yet been made on when they will reopen. If schools are able to reopen in September, exams for the Higher School Certificate may be held in late September or early October; they were due to take place in April but have been postponed until further notice.

Brunei: A level exams were cancelled. Schools started to reopen from the beginning of June.

China: Schools and universities in all provinces have started to reopen. Key “exit years” returned to school first – Grade 9, Grade 12 and final year university students; thereby helping to minimise disruption to exams and graduation. The Gaokao took place on 7th-8th July.

Hong Kong: Examinations for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) took place between 24th April and 25th May, after being postponed for one month; results were released on 22nd July. Schools started to reopen from late May. Universities continued to deliver courses and exams online to the end of the Spring semester. The new academic year will combine online and some face-to-face teaching.

The 2021 HKDSE exams have been put back to 23rd April to 17th May and assessment has been streamlined.

India: All schools and universities are closed but lockdown restrictions are beginning to be lifted. For the all-India boards, the CISCE, CBSE and NIOS Standard 12 exams were initially postponed, then cancelled. Results were based on students’ past performance. CICSE results were released on 10th July, CBSE results on 13th July and NIOS results on 5th August. For state boards: Standard 12 exams in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh were completed prior to lockdown; postponed exams went ahead in Goa and Kerala in May; in Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in June; and in Mizoram at the beginning of July. Exams in Odisha were cancelled.

The University Grants Commission has announced that university exams should be held by the end of September, in-person, online or in hybrid mode. There is some flexibility with this deadline, so some students may get final results much later than usual, impacting admissions to postgraduate programmes starting this autumn.

UGC guidelines advised that the start of the academic year in universities should be put back until September for first year students and October for continuing students.

Indonesia: All national examinations (Ujian Nasional) for 2020, including senior high school, madrasahs and junior high school, were cancelled. The new academic year started in July but schools and universities are expected to continue to deliver courses online until later in the year. Some schools in low-risk areas gradually reopened from July onwards.

Japan: Schools began to partially reopen in some regions from mid-May. The new academic year has started in universities, but courses are being delivered online, with face-to-face delivery unlikely to resume before September in most cases. Schools have now fully reopened.

Kazakhstan: The Unified National Tests went ahead in late June / July. Final school exams were cancelled; university exams were conducted online. Teaching in schools and universities remains online, although some schools in rural areas have reopened.

Malaysia: All schools and universities are closed. Semester 2 exams for the STPM were postponed until 12th-18th August. Exams for semester 3 have been postponed until March 2021. Exams for the Matriculation programme were cancelled. Exams for the UEC have been postponed until December. Schools reopened in July. The Ministry for Higher Education has announced that, with a few exceptions, all programmes of study at universities will be taught online until the end of 2020.

Nepal: The Secondary Education Examination was cancelled and the National Examination Board issued certificates based on internal assessments carried out by schools.

Pakistan: Schools and universities will reopen from 15th September. All board exams, including those for the Higher School Certificate have been cancelled. Guidance from the HEC says that universities should still aim to complete final assessments by other means and enable students to graduate.

Philippines: Grade 12 examinations took place on 12-13th March and the school year 2019-20 ended at the beginning of April. The start of the new academic year has been delayed until October and classes will be online.

Singapore: Schools reopened on 2nd June. Mid-year exams have been postponed or cancelled; most A level exams take place in October. Universities will reopen in August or September, after the summer break, with some courses still delivered online.

South Korea: Schools began to reopen from 20th May, starting with Grade 12 students. The College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT / 대학수학능력시험), the national university entrance examination, which usually takes place in November, has been pushed back to 3rd December. Universities are delivering courses online for the rest of the academic year.

Sri Lanka: A level exams have been postponed until September. State universities reopened for final year medical students on 15th June and for other final year students on 22nd June. Schools began to gradually reopen in July.

Taiwan: The Advanced Subjects Test (AST) (指定科目考試) took place on 3rd-5th July.

Thailand: The first semester of the new academic year was delayed and started on 1st July. Universities will start the new academic year in July or August, but some will still teach online.

Turkmenistan: Schools have not been closed but the school holidays were extended by a week in April.

Uzbekistan: Final year school exams have been taken online. University entrance exams were held in the first week of August and were online. Assessment for Bachelor and Master’s degrees was also online. Some schools have reopened, with decisions made at a local level.

Vietnam: Schools and universities have reopened. The school year 2019-20 was extended until mid-July and national high school graduation examinations took place 7-11th August.


Austria: Final year students returned to school at the beginning of May and Matura exams went ahead from May 25th. Schools have now fully reopened.

Belgium: In the French-speaking community, upper secondary graduation exams were cancelled. Schools reopened at the beginning of September.

Bulgaria: State examinations took place 1st-4th June. Universities finished the academic year online, including exams and assessment.

Croatia: State Matura exams took place in June. Schools have reopened for the new academic year.

Cyprus: Final year students returned to school on 11th May to prepare for the Pancyprian exams. The exams finished on 26th June. Primary school pupils and some other high school students returned to school on 21st May.

Czech Republic: Schools reopened for final year students on 11th May and exams took place in June. Schools fully reopened at the start of September.

Denmark: Upper secondary exams went ahead, but the number of exams was reduced. Schools reopened in May.

European Baccalaureate: Exams have been cancelled.

Estonia: Schools reopened on 15th May for final year students. State examinations were optional and took place between 29th May and 5th June. The C1 English exams were held between 12th and 22nd June.

France: All final Baccalauréat examinations have been cancelled for each of the three streams (général, technologique and professionnel). Students’ grades were based on continuous assessment throughout their final year. Results were released on 7th July. Schools and universities reopened at the beginning of September; some universities are offering blended learning.

Germany: Schools began to reopen gradually in some Länder from 20th April. Abitur exams went ahead and all results have been released. Students were able to choose whether to take university exams, which were offered in-person or online. Most universities are expected to start the new academic year online. Schools have reopened after the summer holidays.

Greece: Schools reopened for final year students on 11th May. The Panhellenic exams began on 15th June and results were released in July. Schools will reopen for the new academic year on 14th September; universities will also partially reopen.

Hungary: Exams for the Matura were held in May. Schools reopened at the beginning of September.

Ireland: Exams for the Leaving Certificate were cancelled. Calculated grades were released on 7th September. Schools have reopened. In higher education, some teaching will be online.

Italy: Schools reopened at the start of September; some are teaching face-to-face, others remotely. Written examinations for the Esame di Stato were cancelled; students just took an oral exam. Oral exams took place from 17th June.

Latvia: State graduation exams took place from 2nd June to 3rd July.

Lithuania: Exams for the Brandos Atestatas took place between 22nd June and 21st July. Schools have now reopened.

Luxembourg: Final year secondary exams went ahead as planned from 25th May.

Malta: School and universities are closed for the rest of the academic year. Examinations for the Matriculation Certificate, which were due to take place in May, were postponed and are taking place in September.

Moldova: National exams for the Diploma de Bacalaureat have been cancelled.

Netherlands: Primary schools partially reopened on 11th May with secondary schools following from the beginning of June. All national exams for this school year were cancelled. Students obtained their school leaving certificates based on their results in the school exams. School exams were held online where possible.

Norway: All written exams have been cancelled.

Poland: Schools reopened for some pupils on 24th May. The Matura exams took place between 8th and 29th June. Schools have now fully reopened.

Portugal: Exames Nacionais do Ensino Secundário (ENES) exams went ahead in July, but only for the purpose of admission to higher education.

Romania: Only 8th and 12th grade students returned to school before the summer break. Bacalaureat examinations went ahead as originally planned from 22nd June. Most schools have reopened for the new academic year, but decisions will be taken locally, with schools in areas reporting high numbers of cases teaching online.

Russia: The Unified State Examinations have been postponed further until 3rd-23rd July. Students will not be required to pass these exams to obtain the Certificate of Secondary General Education; this was issued to all students in June. Schools reopened for the new academic year on 1st September. Universities also plan to start the new academic year with face-to-face delivery, but blended learning will also be available in many institutions.

Slovakia: The written part of the Matura exam was cancelled.

Spain: The Evaluación de Bachillerato para el Acceso a la Universidad (EBAU) (university entrance exam) was postponed and took place in July. Schools have reopened after the summer break. Many universities are planning to continue to deliver courses online.

Switzerland: Exams were cancelled in some cantons.

Turkey: The YKS (university entrance exams) was postponed and took place on 27th-28th June. The new academic year started on 31st August with teaching taking place remotely. Schools will reopen gradually from September. It is planned that universities will reopen in October.

Ukraine: All schools and universities are closed. The Independent External Examination (IEE) took place between 25th June and 17th July with an additional session 24th July to 10th August.

UK: All secondary school exams including the GCSE, AS and A Level, Scottish Highers, National 4 and 5 have been cancelled this year. Schools have reopened for the new academic year; some universities are teaching in person, while others are offering blended delivery of courses.


Botswana: Schools have fully reopened. BGCSE exams are scheduled for October and November.

Egypt: Final written exams for the Certificate of General Secondary Education (Thanawaya Amma ) took place between 21st June and 21st July. Exams for grades 10 and 11 were held online. Final university exams are being held between July and September. The new academic year will begin in October.

Ghana: Schools and universities reopened for final year students on 15th June. Written exams for the WASSCE are due to be held from 3rd August to 5th September.

Kenya: Schools and universities are closed. KCSE exams were scheduled for November, but will be postponed.

Liberia: Schools reopened for final year students at the end of June so they could prepare for the WASSCE, which began on 17th August.

Malawi: Schools have been closed since March, but will reopen gradually from September.

Morocco: Final year Baccalauréat exams are took place in July. Schools reopened in September, with a combination of online and face-to-face teaching. Universities will reopen in October, offering online, in-person or hybrid teaching options for students.

Nigeria: Schools reopened for exit years on 4th August, so students could prepare for the WASSCE, which will begin on 17th August. Exams for subjects only taken in Nigeria will be held in September. The National Examinations Council (NECO) postponed exams for the Senior School Certificate; these have been rescheduled for October and November.

South Africa: Exams for the National Senior Certificate are held in November and are due to go ahead. Resits scheduled for May / June have been postponed. Schools first reopened for grades 7 and 12 from 8th June, but returned in August after another brief closure following a rise in cases.

Tunisia: Exams for the Baccalauréat were held in July. Universities reopened in June.

West African Examinations Council (WAEC) (Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia): Exams for the WASSCE are due to be held during August and September.

Zimbabwe: Universities have reopened for first year students and for end-of-semester exams.


Bahrain: The Ministry of Education cancelled final exams. The start of the new academic year has been delayed in government schools, with students now due to return in October.

Israel: Matriculation exams went ahead in late June but students only took exams in five subjects. Schools have reopened for the new academic year.

Kuwait: In-person exams were cancelled. Kuwait University resumed the 2019-20 academic year online in August. Schools are also teaching remotely.

Lebanon: Universities reopened in June and held exams.

Qatar: Schools and universities are teaching through blended learning for the first semester of the 2020-21 academic year.

Saudi Arabia: Schools are closed and the end of the academic year was brought forward to 14th May. From 30th August, schools resumed, continuing to teach remotely. Special travel permits are being issued to scholarship students to enable them to travel.

Syria: Universities reopened in June and exams were held. Final secondary school exams went ahead.

United Arab Emirates: Teaching and exams took place online for the rest of the academic year. Schools will reopen in September; some have returned to face-to-face teaching while others are continuing to teach remotely.


Bolivia: The school year was brought to a close at the beginning of August.

Brazil: The ENEM, which was due to take place at the start of November, has been postponed. New dates have not yet been confirmed.

Caribbean: Exams scheduled for May and June were postponed until July and the format was modified. CAPE assessments were held from 13th July and results will be released in September.

Chile: Schools and universities are currently closed. No announcements have yet been made regarding exams as these take place later in the year.

Mexico: Schools and universities are closed.

Uruguay: Schools have now reopened.

USA: The College Board has cancelled the SAT and SAT subject tests scheduled for 2nd May and 6th June. The ACT due to take place on April 4th was rearranged for 13th June and went ahead, but some test centres were closed. AP exams were taken online between 11th and 22nd May and June 1st and June 5th; results were released 15th to 17th July. Most schools are teaching remotely. Some universities and colleges have reopened; a number have closed again following outbreaks on campus.


Australia: Exams for the Higher School Certificate in New South Wales will take place in October, five days later than originally planned. Exams for the VCE in Victoria will take place in early November. Exams in other states are currently due to go ahead but there may be further announcements closer to the scheduled dates of the exams.

New Zealand: NCEA exams will start on 16th November, instead of 6th November. Schools fully reopened in May.


Cambridge International: all Cambridge IGCSE, International AS and A level and Pre-U exams worldwide in May and June have been cancelled.

International Baccalaureate: Exams due to take place in May 2020 were cancelled. Results, based on coursework and teacher assessment, were released on 6th July.

OxfordAQA: all exams for International GCSE, AS and A level qualifications in May and June have been cancelled.

Pearson: all International GCSE, AS or A level exams globally, due to be held in May and June, have been cancelled.

English language tests

One of the other principal challenges faced by students and admitting universities alike, will be access to Secure English Language Tests for visa purposes, as individuals are required to have attended an approved test centre.

Some SELT test providers are maintaining a list of current test centre closures. You can find out the latest through the dedicated COVID-19 pages on their websites:

Other English language test providers are also maintaining updates on their websites:

Further information

Further information on the resources available from UK NARIC to support our member organisations and diverse stakeholders across the globe can be found here.

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