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Coronavirus epidemic to hit short-term summer programs hardest – BOSSA

As Chinese banks sterilise cash to try and prevent the further spread of coronavirus and bars deliver happy hour drinks to customers in lockdown, many agents are preparing for “a decline in students going abroad this year”, according to a survey from the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association.

CoronavirusCoronavirus fears have led to delays in application and visa processing. Photo: Pete Linforth/Pixabay

Agencies believe almost 36% of students will change their study abroad plans

BOSSA is China’s largest international education association and together with the China Overseas Study Service Alliance, it counts more than 300 agencies, education providers and organisations among its members.

The majority of Chinese students use an education agent, and BOSSA- COSSA agent members account for two-thirds of all Chinese students sent abroad, according to the association.

According to the survey, BOSSA members report that staff are continuing to work remotely and communicate with clients online or by telephone, with agencies taking a “wait and see approach” to developments and closely following official reports and news from partner institutions.

“Reports of attacks on Chinese international students are most disconcerting to BOSSA”

“The epidemic has invariably caused 40%-60% of students to be directly affected in college applications, visa applications, and in-country exit and entry,” stated the survey report.

The main application issues reported by agents include incomplete materials due to the cancellation of standardised tests (35%), delayed school starts (28%), blocked travel (39%), blocked entry or exit (39%), blocked visa applications (38%) and blocked admission (8%).

Countries such as Australia have stopped processing visas for Chinese students, meaning some may have to defer their studies, while those heading to countries still issuing visas may experience delays due to the evacuation of embassy and consulate staff from China.

“BOSSA’s staff and members are closely monitoring visa centre closings, cancelled flights, banning of Chinese travellers, and associated national and global matters of the novel coronavirus affecting the health and safety of Chinese students abroad,” BOSSA spokesperson Jon Santangelo told The PIE News.

He explained that reports of verbal and physicals attacks on Chinese international students are most disconcerting to BOSSA and its agents.

“Hosting schools and universities need to communicate an awareness of challenges which may arise and offer sequential supportive actions to their students. These educators should also convey this information to their partnered recruitment agents,” Santangelo said, adding that BOSSA’s own Agent Expo has been postponed from March 19 to May 29.

The report also revealed that agencies believe almost 36% of students will change their plans with regards studying abroad due to the epidemic, while 66% say the total number of students studying abroad this year will decline.

In addition, more than 80% said they believe summertime short-term programs will be the most affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The main concern at this stage, having spoken to university partners, is the IELTS and pre-sessional English courses,” Billy Xu of Sower International Education Group told The PIE.

“A large number of Chinese students who join master’s programs will need to take pre-sessional English courses, and these vary from 10 to 30 weeks or even longer.”

“Hosting schools and universities need to communicate an awareness of challenges”

Xu said that in order to get a visa for the pre-sessional courses, students need to take the IELTS with UKVI exams, but now that IELTS tests are closed until April “there will be a foreseeable drop for this Autumn intake”.

For international students currently in China that cannot get abroad to their classes, some universities are trying to offer online options.

Some reports have suggested internet restrictions have been eased to help students access courses although others within China say there has been an increased crackdown on access to the non-Chinese websites and VPN usage.

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