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: 5th January 2021]

A summary of school closures and exam arrangements.

Throughout 2020 news was dominated by the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent disruption. School and university closures and the switch to online learning have had a significant impact on students, particularly those sitting exams and / or due to graduate.

At UK NARIC, since March 2020 we have been tracking delays to exams at secondary and higher education level as they are announced. A summary by country can be found below.

In addition to the updates below, in May 2020 we published a special report: The Effects of Covid-19 on International Secondary Assessment. The report looked at postponements and cancellations of exams in 2020 in selected key countries in more detail.

Towards the end of 2020 many countries began to see a significant rise in Covid-19 cases, leading many to take the decision to suspend face-to-face teaching. The return to school or university in the new year will be delayed for many students. As of 14th January UNESCO found that in 23 countries schools and universities are closed at a national level due to Covid-19. However, this number is likely to increase as schools in many countries are still on a winter break.

We will continue to track developments into 2021, particularly in relation to national exams.

ASIA

Afghanistan: Schools and universities have reopened.

Bangladesh: Schools and universities remain closed. Exams for the Higher School Certificate will be held once schools have reopened; 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.

Cambodia: Schools are reopening following a six-week lockdown introduced in November.

China: Schools and universities in all provinces have reopened. 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.

Schools and universities reopened for the new academic year, with a phased return for students between August and October.

The Ministry of Education has announced that extra places have been made available on Sino-foreign joint programmes and at joint institutions in China for Chinese students who had been offered places to study abroad but are now unable to do so.

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 and fully reopened for the new academic year. Universities continued to deliver courses and exams online to the end of the Spring semester and for this academic year are combining online and some face-to-face teaching.

The return to school after the winter break has been delayed until 12th February.

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

India: 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 announced that university exams should have been held by the end of September, in-person, online or in hybrid mode. There was some flexibility with this deadline, so some students may have received final results much later than usual.

State governments are permitted to allow schools to reopen from 15th October. However, online teaching is preferred and encouraged at all levels. The UGC has issued guidelines for the phased reopening of universities and colleges, but approaches will vary between states and individual institutions. Some universities have begun to reopen for postgraduate students who need access to laboratories.

The CBSE has announced that exams in 2021 will go ahead and will be held later than usual, in May.

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 with a combination of online and face-to-face teaching, depending on the local situation. Some schools in low-risk areas gradually reopened from July onwards. Schools in Jakarta are currently closed as local restrictions are in place in the capital.

Japan: Schools began to partially reopen in some regions from mid-May. The new academic year has started in universities. Some are resuming face-to-face classes while others remain online. Schools have now fully reopened. Japanese students are being advised not to study abroad.

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: 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 were postponed until December.

Schools reopened in July. Universities were due to reopen in October but the Ministry of Higher Education has instructed institutions to move all teaching online. Entry to the country for international students was suspended until 31st December, but has now resumed.

Myanmar: The Matriculation Exam went ahead and results were released in August.

Nepal: The Secondary Education Examination was cancelled and the National Examination Board issued certificates based on internal assessments carried out by schools. Universities and colleges have reopened to hold exams.

Pakistan: All board exams, including those for the Higher Secondary School Certificate were cancelled. Guidance from the HEC stated that universities should still aim to complete final assessments by other means and enable students to graduate.

Schools and universities reopened from 15th September but switched back to online learning from November 26th. They will reopen in phases from 18th January.

The Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education has announced that exams for the Higher Secondary School Certificate will go ahead in 2021 in the usual format, but the syllabus has been reduced.

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 was delayed until October and classes are online.

Singapore: Schools reopened on 2nd June. Mid-year exams were postponed or cancelled; A level exams took place in October. Universities reopened in August or September, after the summer break, with online lectures combined with on-campus classes. Schools are teaching classes in-person.

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. Schools are now open, but with restrictions on numbers. Many universities began to move from remote learning to blended delivery from mid-October.

Sri Lanka: Postponed A level exams were held in October. Schools and universities have now reopened.

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

Thailand: The first semester of the new academic year was delayed and started on 1st July. Universities started the new academic year in July or August; they are permitted to teach students on campus but many are offering blended delivery. Schools reopened but public schools in Bangkok are closed until 17th January following an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.

Turkmenistan: Schools have not been closed but the school holidays were extended by a week in April 2020.

Uzbekistan: Final year school exams were taken 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 are open. The school year 2019-20 was extended until mid-July and national high school graduation examinations took place 7-11th August.

EUROPE

Austria: Final year students returned to school at the beginning of May and Matura exams went ahead from May 25th. Schools fully reopened for the new academic year but were closed for a period as part of a second national lockdown in November and early December.

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. Schools have reopened in September but schools and universities were closed again in November. Secondary schools will be closed until the end of January.

Croatia: State Matura exams took place in June. Schools 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; schools have now fully reopened.

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 but have now been closed and switched to distance learning as part of new lockdown measures.

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

European Baccalaureate: Exams were 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. Schools are now partially open.

France: All final Baccalauréat examinations were 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 began to reopen at the beginning of September; some universities are offering blended learning. Some universities have moved courses online following outbreaks.

In 2021, students will only sit final Baccalauréat examinations in their two specialisation subjects. Other exams for students in première and terminale (penultimate and final years) have been cancelled.

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 started the new academic year online. Schools reopened after the summer holidays. Schools are now closed until the end of January as part of a second lockdown.

Greece: Schools reopened for final year students on 11th May. The Panhellenic exams began on 15th June and results were released in July. Schools reopened for the new academic year on 14th September; universities have also partially reopened. Both were closed again in November following a rise in cases. Primary schools reopened on 11th January.

Hungary: Exams for the Matura were held in May. Schools reopened at the beginning of September. Secondary schools and universities were closed again in November.

Ireland: Exams for the Leaving Certificate were cancelled. Calculated grades were released on 7th September. Schools have reopened. In higher education, most teaching is online, with only tutorials and laboratory work taking place on campus.

Italy: Written examinations for the Esame di Stato were cancelled; students just took an oral exam. Oral exams took place from 17th June. Schools reopened at the start of September; some teaching face-to-face, others remotely. According to new restrictions introduced on 26th October, schools and universities were required to teach at least 75% remotely until 24th November. Schools are now partially open.

Latvia: State graduation exams took place from 2nd June to 3rd July. Schools reopened for the new academic year.

Lithuania: Exams for the Brandos Atestatas took place between 22nd June and 21st July. Schools reopened in September, but secondary schools and universities were closed again in November.

Luxembourg: Final year secondary exams went ahead as planned from 25th May. Schools have reopened for the new academic year and the University of Luxembourg is delivering courses through a hybrid model combining online and small group teaching.

Malta: School and universities were closed until the end of the academic year. Examinations for the Matriculation Certificate, which were due to take place in May, were postponed and took place in September. Schools reopened gradually from 7th October.

Moldova: National exams for the Diploma de Bacalaureat were cancelled. Schools are now open.

Montenegro: Schools reopened in October for students in primary schools and the first year of secondary education, with other students taught remotely.

Netherlands: Primary schools partially reopened on 11th May with secondary schools following from the beginning of June. All national exams for the 2019-20 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. Schools are now closed until at least 9th February.

North Macedonia: Classes resumed online at the beginning of October for older students, with only younger pupils attending face-to-face classes.

Norway: All written exams were cancelled. Schools are now fully open.

Poland: Schools reopened for some pupils on 24th May. The Matura exams took place between 8th and 29th June. Schools fully reopened in September, but schools and universities were closed again in November.

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

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 reopened for the new academic year, but decisions were taken locally, with schools in areas reporting high numbers of cases teaching online. All schools were closed in November due to an increase in cases nationally and will continue to teach online in January.

Russia: The Unified State Examinations were postponed until 3rd-23rd July. Students were not 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. Some universities started the new academic year with face-to-face delivery, but blended learning will also be available in many institutions. Following a rise in cases, schools in some regions have switched to distance learning, and all universities in Moscow and St Petersburg will be teaching online until February 2021.

Slovakia: The written part of the Matura exam was cancelled. Schools reopened in September but teaching went online at the end of October for grade 5 and above.

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. Universities are offering classes on campus but some have moved courses online following outbreaks.

Sweden: Students over the age of 13 in the Stockholm region are currently studying via distance learning.

Switzerland: Exams were cancelled in some cantons. Schools have now reopened.

Turkey: The YKS (university entrance exams) were postponed and took place on 27th-28th June. The new academic year started on 31st August with most teaching taking place remotely. Universities are providing a combination of online delivery and small group teaching on campus. Schools reverted back to being fully online as part of stricter measures introduced in November.

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

UK: All secondary school exams including the GCSE, AS and A Level, Scottish Highers, National 4 and 5 were cancelled in 2020. Schools reopened for the new academic year; some universities taught in-person, while others offered blended delivery of courses. All schools and universities have now moved teaching online.

In Scotland, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled for 2021. GCSE, AS and A level exams have been cancelled in England and will replaced by a form of teacher assessment. In Northern Ireland, the content and number of exams have also been reduced. In Wales, GCSE, AS and A level exams have been cancelled and will be replaced by an externally set classroom-based assessment.

AFRICA

Algeria: Exams for the Baccalaureat took place in September. The start of the new academic year has been postponed until December. Some universities have not completed exams for the past academic year and aimed to complete them in November.

Botswana: Schools have fully reopened. BGCSE exams took place in 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 were held between July and September. The new academic year began in October and schools have reopened to offer some face-to-face teaching. Universities are also offering blended learning.

Ethiopia: Schools have partially reopened but remain closed in Addis Ababa.

Ghana: Schools and universities reopened for final year students on 15th June. Written exams for the WASSCE were held from 3rd August to 5th September. Results were released in mid-November. Schools are now partially open.

Kenya: Schools and universities are gradually reopening. Schools are reopening fully in January. KCSE exams were scheduled for November, but have been postponed until March 2021.

Liberia: Schools reopened for final year students at the end of June so they could prepare for the WASSCE, which began on 17th August. Results were released in mid-November.

Malawi: Schools had been closed since March, but reopened 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 reopened in October, offering online, in-person or hybrid teaching options for students.

Mozambique: Schools reopened at the beginning of October.

Nigeria: Schools reopened for exit years on 4th August, so students could prepare for the WASSCE, which began on 17th August. Exams for subjects only taken in Nigeria were held in September. Results were released on 2nd November. The National Examinations Council (NECO) postponed exams for the Senior School Certificate; these are taking place during November. Schools fully reopened on 12th October.

South Africa: Exams for the National Senior Certificate are held in November and are due to go ahead. Resits scheduled for May / June were postponed so students who intended to take them will sit the November exams. Schools first reopened for grades 7 and 12 from 8th June, but returned in August after another brief closure following a rise in cases. The new academic year for universities will start in March. The current one will be concluded between December and March, depending on the institution.

Tunisia: Exams for the Baccalauréat were held in July. Schools have reopened and universities have adopted a hybrid delivery model.

West African Examinations Council (WAEC) (Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia): Exams for the WASSCE were held during August and September. Results have now been released.

Zambia: General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams were held in September. School Certificate exams will take place in December. Schools and universities have fully reopened.

Zimbabwe: Universities reopened for first year students and for end-of-semester exams. A phased reopening of schools began in mid-September.

MIDDLE EAST

Bahrain: The Ministry of Education cancelled final exams. The start of the new academic year was delayed in government schools, and they reopened at the end of October. Private schools are teaching online. The University of Bahrain has started the semester with full online learning, except for practical subjects that require use of labs and technical equipment.

Israel: Matriculation exams went ahead in late June but students only took exams in five subjects. Schools reopened for the new academic year, but were closed again due to an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Jordan: Schools and universities are closed and teaching remotely. The situation is due to be reviewed in February.

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

Lebanon: Baccalaureate exams were cancelled. Universities reopened in June and held exams. Schools reopened for the new academic year in October.

Oman: Schools are partially open and offering blended delivery. Universities are teaching online, but students may have access to laboratories.

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 reopened in September; some schools have returned to face-to-face teaching but most are continuing to teach remotely.

AMERICAS

Bolivia: The school year was brought to a close at the beginning of August. Schools and universities remain closed.

Brazil: The ENEM, which was due to take place at the start of November, has been postponed until January. Most schools and universities remain closed, but reopening is being decided at state level with some states now allowing face-to-face teaching. A decision is still pending from the Ministry of Education regarding distance learning for the 2021 academic year, which is due to begin in February.

Canada: Schools in Quebec reopened in August; schools in other provinces started to reopen in September. Arrangements vary between provinces, with some still providing online or blended learning, and others opening schools for all students full-time.

In Alberta, Diploma exams in October and November were optional.

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 were released on 22nd September.

Chile: Schools and universities are currently closed.

Mexico: Schools and universities are closed. Schools are teaching via distance learning. Universities are permitted to make their own decisions about when to reopen and how to deliver courses, in line with any national guidelines.

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.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia: Exams for the Higher School Certificate in New South Wales took place in October, five days later than originally planned. Exams for the VCE in Victoria took place in early November. Exams in other states also went ahead.

New Zealand: NCEA exams were held from 16th November. Schools fully reopened in May.

OTHER

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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