Small declines were also seen for Australia, New Zealand and Germany, as well as a large decrease in desire to study in Hong Kong.

“Some parents complain that their children still aren’t able to communicate well in English after four years”

However, the UK and the US tend to attract a different demographic of student from China.

The former is far more popular with postgraduate students, business students and women, for example, meaning that the data is not necessarily suggesting students who would have gone to the US are now considering the UK.

Stakeholders in China differ in their assessment of what factors are driving the appeal of particular study destinations.

New Oriental believes political tensions play a large role while the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association argues that it is families’ financial situations which are impacting decisions.

Both acknowledge that health and safety is a primary factor.

Of greater significance is that the report highlights a large disparity between concerns that students intending to study abroad have and the actual experience of students who have studied abroad.

Students’ worries about safety and mental health appear to be higher beforehand, while many also greatly underestimate language barriers.

The company’s chairman, Yu Minhong, picked up on these points in his opening of the report, highlighting the issues students face when it comes to language capabilities.

“Some parents complain that their children still aren’t able to communicate well in English after four years of undergraduate study abroad,” he said, adding that only communicating with other Chinese students and a lack of integration were the main causes, as well as some students relying on ghostwriters for essays.

“If you want to graduate and master good English skills, you really have to work hard in the four years, and write every paper by yourself.”

BOSSA believes demand for study abroad is still increasing, both in the top and non-traditional destinations, despite Covid-19 and the growth of domestic international schools and transnational programs.

It added that there are study abroad fairs planned in the country this year although institutions are somewhat reliant on in-country reps.

“Parents still prefer in-person consulting and are going to agencies’ offices, meeting counsellors face-to-face, and planning for next year,” said BOSSA spokesperson Jon Santangelo.

JJL, one of the Big Four agencies, just opened a new office for online-only consulting in Beijing. But they’re not going fully digital.”

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