After announcing that online overseas degrees would no longer be recognised and instructing students to return to the country of their course provider for semester one, the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange released further guidance last week advising students not to worry if they are unable to return immediately.
“Please don’t worry, you can continue to take online classes during the relevant procedures,” the CSCSE said in a statement. The body told students that if they are unable to secure visas, flights or accommodation, they will be allowed to submit documents showing this when they apply for their final certification.
China also clarified that students who are in the last semester of their studies or whose institutions do not have the capacity to facilitate additional students at the moment will also be given the chance to show evidence of this in order to ensure their qualifications are recognised.
Reacting to the news, Chinese study abroad umbrella agency BOSSA said online learning was never expected to be recognised in the long-run and that some agencies had taken advantage of the flexible rules introduced during the pandemic.
“Some agencies defrauded students with distance-learning programs”
“Some agencies defrauded students with distance-learning programs that were packaged as [Ministry of Education] traditionally recognised, foreign degree programs,” said Chenxing Sang, BOSSA secretary general.
Despite the updated guidance, data from accommodation providers suggests that Chinese students are scrambling to return to campuses as soon as possible.
Luke Nolan, founder and CEO of Student.com, said the online marketplace has experienced a surge in demand from Chinese students searching for housing overseas since the decision.
“We have received thousands of enquiries from Chinese students looking to secure accommodation internationally, representing a 75% increase on the same period last year,” Nolan said, adding that interest in the UK specifically had increased by 30%.
Similarly, accommodation company Homes for Students has experienced an increase in Google searches from Chinese speakers across all of its brands compared to last year, with its luxury brand up 124% year on year.
Universities are working to facilitate the arrival of Chinese students on campus. Ula Tang-Plowman, deputy director of international student recruitment at the University of Nottingham, said while the news was not unexpected, it had caught students and institutions off-guard.
“China has always been very clear with its stance on online degrees,” she said, adding that the university was doing everything possible to ensure a smooth transition to on-campus learning.
“This includes fast and clear guidance on CAS and visa, being as flexible and supportive with accommodation options and ensuring additional orientations are available when students do get here.
“However in case of complications with visa, flights or accommodation, Chinese students are advised to keep all evidence of the delay and communicate with us immediately so they can be best supported with their online experience. We understand the CSCSE will take these evidence into consideration when assessing a degree authentication request.”
Gary Palmer, managing director OI Digital Institute and Language at Oxford International Education Group, said, “For some of our students in China, this announcement will bring a welcome end to an uncertain and stressful wait for in-person learning.
“However, for many students the prospect of returning overseas may seem daunting. Through our global study locations and presence in China, we are providing support to our Chinese students as they begin the next phase of their education.”
Visa processing times in the UK have returned to normal after delays last year, but countries including Australia and Canada are still facing significant backlogs, as well as accommodation shortages.
As semester one begins in Australia shortly and with approximately 40,000 offshore Chinese students enrolled in institutions there, demand for visas and accommodation is particularly high. Student.com has seen a 60% rise in enquiries for Australia housing from Chinese students. Universities Australia said it was working with the government to facilitate their safe return.