Foreign universities seeking to fly Chinese students back on campus

By Li Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/16 20:28:40

Photo: VCG

A number of universities in Western countries are seeking ways to maintain their student pool from China.

Queen's University Belfast is planning to hire chartered airplanes to fly its Chinese students back to campus before the new semester in September, read a post on the university's website.

According to the post, it will arrange direct flights from Beijing to Belfast for its Chinese students. Onward travels after students arrive in Belfast City Airport will be by private coach. The university also promised in the commitment to enhance hygiene measures to ensure the students' safety in the campus.

A student surnamed Xiong told the Global Times that he was happy and felt proud that the university made such a considerable decision for Chinese students.

Xiong received his offer from Queen's University Belfast before this year's Spring Festival, and he was bothered that he might not able to go to the university as the COVID-19 rampaged in the UK.

"I was thinking about finding a job or applying for a university in Australia if I couldn't go to the UK," he told the Global Times.

However, considering the severity of COVID-19 in the UK, his parents are still hesitant.

Another student surnamed Yang told the Global Times that she wonders how much a student should pay for the direct flight, but still applauds for the decision as the university also exempted their nucleic acid test fee and accommodation fee during their quarantine in UK.

Yuan Zhengxiang, the head of OvEdu Education, a Shanghai-based education agency, told the Global Times on Sunday that the move shows the university attaches great importance to Chinese students, and worked to "compensate" students who finished their curriculums requiring field instruction online. 

The fees from the more than 12,000 Chinese students in the UK represents more than 10 percent of all revenue at a number of universities across the UK, according to trade magazine Times Higher Education.

"As a repercussion of Brexit, universities in UK have lost some students from European countries, which made these universities more reliant on their student pool in China," said Yuan.

"Chinese students have been a major source for all overseas universities that recruit international students, and it is risky for these universities to lose such a big market in China," he added.

A student told the Global Times that she spent some 350,000 to 400,000 yuan ($50,000 to 57,000) in Belfast a year, including the tuition and accommodation fee.

The decision made by Queen's University Belfast represents that universities in the UK would like to maintain a good rapport with Chinese students by providing good services. "It is a smart move and paves a way for its future student enrollment in China, which works better than any market campaigns," said Yuan, adding that he believes other universities that rely on international education will adopt similar measures following Queen's University Belfast.

Some Australian universities are also trying to attract their international students back to campus, with some having discussed chartering flights to bring in international students.

Australian National University vice-chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt said he looked forward to having students back in Canberra, according to the Canberra Times.

University of Tasmania in Australia reimburses international students' extra flight and accommodation expenses if one chooses to enter Australia from a third country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a student of the university surnamed Qian told the Global Times.

The university is adopting loose policies for students who fail their courses in the exam by providing free make-up courses.

However, some Chinese students and parents reached by the Global Times expressed hesitation in returning to Australia considering the rising anti-China sentiment in the country.

A Chinese student who will graduate from the University of Queensland in July told the Global Times that she wouldn't go back to Australia again because of some unfriendly policies adopted by the Australian government toward Chinese students and the anti-China behavior of some Australians, and she even changed her plan to continue her post-graduate studies in the country.

Qian told the Global Times that she would go back to the country to complete her studies in the university as she believes she wouldn't be affected by local people's anti-China sentiment long as she focuses on her studies.

Charter flights are under consideration as an option to streamline the return of international students to Wellington, capital of New Zealand, reported local news site Stuff.

Figure from New Zealand's Education Ministry shows that 47 percent of the country's international students were from China.


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