The China International Student Union started a new campaign on November 1 to lobby officials for a date when students will be allowed to travel into China to study again, almost two years after the World Health Organization was first informed of cases of pneumonia, detected in Wuhan.
“Our purpose at the moment is to request the Chinese government to release a statement about when and how they plan to let international students return to China,” a spokesperson for the union told The PIE News.
“We would like some real answers besides the repeated ‘we attach great importance to rights of foreign students’, and reasons owing to Covid.”
“Given the ongoing spread of the coronavirus across the globe, the Chinese government has to adopt a series of management measures, which is timely adjusted in accordance with the evolving situation,” current assistant minister for foreign affairs in China, Hua Chunying, said in September.
“I want to stress China’s entry prevention and control measures are applied to all inbound travellers, including its own citizens.”
One agency that deals with admissions to Chinese universities for international students has been working hard to help students find different places, ways or times to study.
Richard Coward, the CEO of China Admissions, recently released a video talking about the prospect of applying for the next year or the year after, as well as online options and alternative destinations for students.
“We believe in helping students to make the best decision for them.
“We realised there is not much clear information online about Covid…it was really hard for me to find information on it, so imagine how challenging it must be for a young student and their parents who don’t speak fluent English,” Coward said.
China Admissions’ tool outlines the border information for almost all countries that offer international education pathways, including China, which is still stagnant due to the closure.
“We believe in helping students to make the best decision for them”
“South Korean students were allowed back in August 2020 with no vaccine requirements, as well as students from China-USA joint universities such as NYU Shanghai, Shenzhen-GTSI and Tianjin Julliard students,” said the CISU spokesperson.
“Now China has vaccinated more than 75% of its citizens and most students are vaccinated as well, even with the Chinese vaccine, yet there is still no indication of allowing such students.”
Reports have even been made that some students’ belongings have been thrown out without their permission from their accommodation.
While China could still be a viable option as there is the option to “apply to study and decide later if they want to enrol” based on the border situation. Another option is to continue online – for now.
“There are some short course boot-camp style programs, such as learning Chinese or doing business in China, which are affordable options,” Coward explained.
“Then there are all the degree programs being taught online because students can’t come to China…a big part of studying abroad is the experience studying in the country.
“But for the top ranked universities students are prepared to take the first one or two years online then come to China later.”
While this has definitely been an option for some, CISU said it is not the case for everyone.
“Many students such as MBBS med researchers cannot take online classes, and have needed to suspend them entirely,” said its spokesperson.
“Our new campaign aims to remind Chinese officials that we still exist and we are still waiting indefinitely to resume our studies.”
The public face of China’s Covid-19 control, Zhong Nanshan, has again defended the border closure in recent days, stating that it is “costly to maintain” the zero-tolerance policy but that the cost would be “even higher” when the country opens again.
“The policy will be maintained for a long time,” he insisted.
“Many students such as MBBS med researchers cannot take online classes”
This week, Chinese officials also publicly warned the US about the treatment of visiting scholars from China in the country.
“The unwanted harassment and oppression for the US targeting students and visiting fellows seriously hurt the two peoples’ amicable feelings toward each other,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
“Just the other day, a Chinese visiting scholar holding a valid visa issued by the US government was repatriated after being interrogated without cause upon entry to the US.”
Coward expects that when the Chinese borders do eventually open, it will be done in “phases.”
“We expect some countries that have higher vaccination rates and less Covid-19 cases will return first.”
Universities with partner ties to some Chinese institutions, such as the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, have only had virtual mobility and exchange due to the pandemic, and don’t see things changing soon.
“We are preparing for outbound mobility to resume from the second semester in 2022 – July next year – so there has been little, if any contact with partners at this point about border closure or quarantine regulation,” said Douglas Proctor, the university’s pro vice chancellor for Global Engagement.
While China Admissions is also encouraging students to look at other options, Coward is optimistic that students will return and demand is rising.
“The demand for education and studying in China is extremely strong and only growing stronger, and we expect the pent-up demand to be higher than before Covid.
“China has the largest population in the world, and is the second biggest economy…it is not only a fascinating experience to learn Chinese and experience China, but to also learn about different perspectives and pursue huge career opportunities to work with China.”
CISU maintains that some concrete information is needed.
“We would like a timeline, at least, so we can make decisions about our future – whether it be 2021 or 2024.”