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China: students “reconsidering” US study plans

Unpredictable policies toward Chinese students, safety concerns, uncertainty about remaining in the US for work experience post graduation and fear of visa denial or deportation after arrival, are all factors leading Chinese students and families to look to alternative study destination options.

Photo: Flickr/ Dennis Jarvis

85% said the Trump administration's "unpredictable policies" toward Chinese students was the biggest concern

A survey carried out by Amherst College found that, of 54 school-based college counsellors in China questioned, 87% said that Chinese students and parents were reconsidering their plans for studying in the US and diversifying their options of college destinations.

Writing in the International Higher Education, associate dean of admission and coordinator of international recruitment at Amherst College Xiaofeng Wan noted that concern highlighted by counsellors was “bad news” for the US.

“Competitor countries have increased their efforts to recruit Chinese students”

Some 85% of respondents said the Trump administration’s “unpredictable policies” toward Chinese students was the biggest concern for Chinese parents. 78% highlighted safety concerns, 65% post-graduate work experience uncertainty and another 65% indicated concerns around fears of visa denial or deportation after arrival.

Counsellors noted that other countries – for example, the UK, Canada, and Australia – were seeing increased interest from Chinese families.

“Competitor countries have increased their efforts to recruit Chinese students, with significant progress in the last few years,” Wan stated.

Canada saw a 33% increase in the number of students from China from 2017 to 2018, while the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service recently reported a 33% increase in Chinese applications with acceptances up by 28 percent since 2018, he added.

Counsellors also cited the rising cost of US higher education due to a devaluation of China’s renminbi.

College education in Canada or the UK costs half as much or less than in the US, while Wan noted that 78% of the counsellors questioned agreed that the UK’s new two-year post-study work option would influence Chinese students considering US colleges.

However, 70% of the counsellors suggested that if their students were admitted to comparable colleges in the US and other countries, “most would still choose the US”.

Families are still attracted to qualities such as the “melting pot” nature of society and the diversity of the student body; rich academic and research resources; flexibility in choosing and changing majors; the liberal arts education; academic freedom; high-quality education with world-class professors, as well as a competitive edge in the job market and strong networking opportunities.

“These qualities have always been what make US higher education desirable,” Wan said.

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