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UK aims to charm China and launches

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has unveiled an official Chinese language website designed to showcase London as a tourist and study destination to China’s 600 million internet users, in a year when London is set to break records again for Chinese visitors.

London's Mayor Boris Johnson and UK Chancellor George Osborne at Peking University. Photo: Andy Parsons

The site’s tourist services will include a virtual tour of the city and personal support via Weibo

Johnson showcased the site’s services – including tailored application advice for Chinese candidates and profiles of 40 London universities – to 300 officials gathered at a London Universities International Partnership (LUIP) event in Beijing, on day one of his trade mission to China.

UK universities receive some £800 million in tuition fees from Chinese students

On a visit to Peking University – newly partnered with Manchester University – Johnson said “I’m here to let students know that if they would like to study internationally, London’s world class higher education intuitions will welcome them with open arms.”

Discussing whether the site will increase the number of inbound Chinese students, a spokesperson for LUIP said, “I can’t predict if it will be successful in attracting more Chinese students. But we do know that the number one motivator for choosing universities abroad, among Chinese students, is research done personally on the internet in Chinese.”

But Helen Hu, representing the BOSSA agency association, suggested Boris had already been a hit. “Boris is a very friendly and humorous person in our eyes and his comment welcoming Chinese students to study in the UK equals to an invitation to the Chinese students who are willing to study abroad,” she told The PIE News.

During the London-focused celebrations, Johnson also shared the stage with Chinese celebrity Meng Fei, to showcase how the site’s tourist services will include a host of practical travel advice; a first-time visitor guide; itineraries for groups; a virtual tour of the city and personal support via Weibo.

“This will absolutely attract more Chinese nationals visiting England, whether for studies, tourism or business”

The launch of the site comes amidst a UK government delegation in China and the Home Office’s announcement of a new pilot scheme allowing Chinese visitors to apply for a UK visa using a Schengen visa form (via selected travel agents), as well as a 24-hour fast track visa service and a proposed expansion of a concierge type VIP mobile visa process.

Hu endorsed the news about a joint Schengen visa process. “This will absolutely attract more Chinese nationals visiting England, whether for studies, tourism or business.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is also with Johnson on a trade trip to China. He said, “These changes will streamline and simplify the visa application process for Chinese visitors, while ensuring the system is strong and secure. This is good news for British business and tourism.”

The new London website in Chinese

Chinese students make up the largest group of foreign nationals in UK schools and universities – and within the capital, London.

The UK is also the number one destination for Chinese investment in Europe, attracting nearly £2 billion in the last year alone and more than 600 Chinese businesses who now have a presence in the UK.

Osborne emphasised Britain’s desire to form ties with China’s $8.2 trillion economy: “There will be no limit on the number of Chinese students who can come to Britain.”

“This partnership [with Manchester University] will – I hope – give even more of you the chance to come to Britain and study there,” he told students at Peking University.

UK universities receive some £800 million in tuition fees from Chinese students, who make up 26% of the non-EU student population, according to HESA.

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