Visa Crunch

Scholars Optimistic International Students Will Return To China Once Borders Reopen

When will China open its borders to international students again? As of March, it remains the only country actively banning international students from entry. 

Global Admissions, a website that uses a traffic light system to provide information to students about travel restrictions in various higher education destinations worldwide, shows that China is the only red country that isn’t allowing international students to return. The country has a zero-COVID policy. 

“We have checked every country and region, and China is now the only one in the world not allowing students to return, and not offering any kind of return plan,” CEO Richard Coward told The PIE News. 

In recent months, countries worldwide are gradually resuming international travel after almost two years of restrictions. 

Recent reports indicate as many as 100,000 students may be allowed to return to Japanese universities and institutions by the end of May. On top of this, Japan’s government has announced plans to give out 100,000 Yen (860 US dollars) to foreign exchange students who have been facing financial hardships due to COVID-19. 

Other countries that have fully opened to students include the UK, Germany, US, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Australia, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, and India. 

Some have partially opened to students, or have concrete plans to welcome students. New Zealand, for example, said a new cohort of up to 5,000 international students can enter New Zealand from mid-2022 as a border exception, through a centrally managed process. Normal visa processing would resume in October.

International students at Chinese universities have been asking for a return date throughout the pandemic, to no avail. Recently, a consul from the Embassy of China in Lebanon tweeted that the Chinese foreign ministry is set to “roll out a plan this year to facilitate safe, healthy, and convenient international travel”. 

Scholars confident of eventual China opening

Despite this, scholars remain optimistic that international student flows to China will rebound once the country announces a date to open its borders. 

I remain hopeful that the number of international students wanting to study in China post-COVID-19 will rebound strongly or even surpass the number in 2019,” Wei Ha, associate dean of the Graduate School of Education at Peking University, told Times Higher Education. 

Some students reportedly arrived in the country despite China’s tough international border ban.

Peking University is one of few institutions in China that has welcomed international students through its doors since the start of the pandemic. In September, it admitted 1,304 foreign first-year students, with 280 arriving on campus. 

Similarly, Hamish Coates of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Education, told THE: “China will rebound post-pandemic like other major [transnational education] countries, and like others will spring forth in novel ways.”

Despite this, international student interest in China as a higher education destination has waned significantly. In a survey conducted by China International Student Union, 46.8% of its 1473 respondents would not recommend China as a study or travel destination to family or friends, and 53% have reported experiencing serious mental health issues due to the prolonged border closure. 

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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