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US: IIE highlights key concerns for Chinese students

Worries around effective health and safety measures, US-China political tension and misinformation, ongoing reports of anti-Asian sentiment in the US and continued visa appointment and standardised testing delays are all concerns for Chinese students and their parents, according to an IIE briefing document.

The country's " unparalleled number and range of high-quality institutions" will continue to attract Chinese students, IIE contended. Photo: Unsplash

"Synchronous virtual learning is not ideal for students who are heading to bed just as morning classes start in the US"

In a IIE Network briefing entitled A Rising or Ebbing Tide: Do Chinese Students Still Want to Study in the U.S.?, the organisation suggested that across China students’ decisions about study abroad “will be primarily affected by concern for quality, financial considerations, and the impact of the pandemic both at home and in possible host countries, along with any ongoing travel restrictions and limitations on access to visa services”.

This sentiment is shared by other students globally, the report’s author, senior counsellor at IIE Peggy Blumenthal wrote.

“Much will depend on the number of Covid-19 cases across the US in summer 2021 and the operating status of US colleges and universities, as well as the status of US travel restrictions, access to consular services, and perceptions abroad of Americans’ attitudes toward students from Asia, and especially from China,” she noted.

“Much will depend on the number of Covid-19 cases across the US in summer 2021”

International enrolments, including from China, “may well rise again in fall 2021, subject to several volatile variables”, following the decision of more than 40,000 international students choosing to defer admission in 2020 rather than start US higher education online, the paper suggested.

A recent survey of parents of Chinese students already pursuing US education found that the country remains the “top choice” study destination.

Other concerns that students and families from China are facing include problems obtaining documents such as official transcripts or graduation certificates for applications, due to school closures and delayed graduation dates. However, it noted that institutions have introduced flexible test requirements and deadlines.

Students also “fear missing the on-campus experience and networking opportunities during the pandemic” and are reluctant to pay high tuition costs for online-only instruction, while others who have begun online education from China have faced issues.

“Synchronous virtual learning is not ideal for students who are heading to bed just as morning classes start in the US. Also, China’s Great Firewall and internet monitors make online learning less attractive and problematic,” the document read.

Local school counsellors indicate online instruction is not favoured by Chinese students, it explained.

“In addition, students must use a virtual private network for many of the learning platforms when connecting from China due to access/firewall issues. Chinese students have also noted they are concerned about privacy/rights when talking about sensitive topics online from their home country.”

It also highlighted that a lack of US campus representative visits to China has resulted in families missing “face-to-face interaction with potential campuses, losing opportunities to ask questions and build personal relationships”.

“The person-to-person connection is particularly important in China – one not easily replicated online,” it said.

Targeted outreach by US higher education institutions and by government officials will be “crucial” in coming weeks and months.

“Many campuses are mobilising their Chinese alumni and currently enrolled students to send positive messages”

While the Biden administration has introduced a “welcoming tone and efforts to address the backlog of visa applications and OPT approvals”, uncertainty about whether US-China relations will improve under the new administration is “not likely to influence students’ enrolment decisions for fall 2021”, as study plans are made years in advance.

“Many campuses are mobilising their Chinese alumni and currently enrolled students to send positive messages back home to potential students and their parents,” it read, while EducationUSA continues to hold information sessions for prospective international students.

“America’s unparalleled number and range of high-quality institutions, as well as its globally recognised science and technology research opportunities will continue to attract international students, including those from China and Hong Kong. Their presence benefits host campuses and American students as well as the students coming from abroad, and their intellectual contributions expand America’s leadership role in innovation and entrepreneurship.”

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