The ‘State of Chinese Student Recruitment Post Covid-19’ report by Sinorbis on the impact of the pandemic on key English-speaking destinations and what it has meant for Chinese international students.
“This shift to online has been particularly difficult for Chinese international students”
According to the report, Chinese students are facing problems in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia around financial hardship, insecure accommodation, inferior/delayed educational experience, technological challenges and psychological distress and anxiety.
A key factor in the recruitment of Chinese students will be whether institutions improve positive experiences around online learning, according to both the report and director/chief corporate and business officer at iae Global, Mark Lucas.
“International students make a substantial contribution to a nation’s economy — in the UK, they contribute around £22.6 billion to the economy; in the US, that figure is around US$45 billion; in Australia, it’s around AUD$32 billion; and in Canada it’s around CA$22 billion,” the report said.
“In short, they are a demographic that countries can’t afford to lose. And with Chinese students making up between 20–50% of the international student population, they are especially critical.
“In order to support Chinese international students (and international students in general) in the best way possible, universities need to have a full understanding of the many challenges these students are facing.”
The report explained that the UK, Canada, the US and Australia all pose specific issues for Chinese students.
Issues in Australia include a negative government reaction to international students, a lack of welfare, as well as political tensions with China.
Challenges in Australia were also highlighted by Lucas, who said that students have abandoned plans to study in the country because of the pandemic and that some were stranded in China due to international border closures.
“I don’t think Australia has done a good job in terms of welfare for international students. They were largely abandoned by universities and the government when Covid-19 hit,” he said.
In the US the report notes that while there were fewer enrolled students who were affected by the US travel ban, there are issues with the acceleration of institution closures, a poor health response to Covid-19 and visa uncertainties.
The UK has flexible student visas but issues remain with health and safety concerns, and the fact that the government has not provided financial support for students.
Canada, by contrast, has had a relatively good health response to Covid-19, provided students with visa flexibility and some international students have been able to access the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
However, there has been confusion around travel ban exemptions.
In response to these challenges the report said that a “critical aspect” of the university experience is online learning — and that the odds are it will remain a critical aspect for some time.
“This shift to online has been particularly difficult for Chinese international students, who have to deal with inconvenient time zones, language difficulties and struggles accessing the material they need — and in many cases the disappointment of having to miss out on their overseas experience,” the report explained.
Sinorbis said that universities can create more effective online learning experiences by making sure that teaching is linked to outcomes and takes full advantage of the benefits and possibilities of the digital medium.
IDP Connect research showed that students from China placed a greater emphasis on safety than students from India and other key markets, alongside less willingness to quarantine on arrival. Quality of teaching and education is also a primary concern for students from China.
When looking at students who have already commenced UK semester one studies, the overwhelming majority of our customers opted to start their studies online in China instead of travelling to the UK.
Some 78% of students chose to commence study online in China, compared to only 22% travelling into the UK. This is almost the reverse of what IDP Connect saw for South Asia and SouthEast Asia.
“They are a demographic that countries can’t afford to lose”
“The research showing the emphasis on quality teaching is an important reminder for universities to demonstrate the high standards of online delivery to students and their parents,” said an IDP Connect spokesperson.
“Either a reduction in fees, or an improvement to the quality of online classes, or both, would bode well for future enrolment numbers of Chinese students,” added Lucas.