More Chinese students want to study in UK than US: survey

By Chen Xi and Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/2 10:28:40

Students at Oxford University campus Photo: IC

A survey published by one of China's largest educational firms, New Oriental Education, found that 42 percent of Chinese students would choose the UK as the first country in which to study abroad, with 37 percent of students choosing the US. It is the first time the UK has overtaken the US as the top destination for Chinese students in the survey.

The survey collected 6,673 samples in 34 provinces in China. Even though more Chinese students may now prefer learning in the UK to the US, the US has the largest number of Chinese students, according to a report by

Reasons for the change

The report analyzed the reasons for the change. The recent tension between China and the US has affected the choices of Chinese students, while the UK reformed its visa policy and allowed overseas students to stay in the UK for two years after graduation.

Liu Xin, a student at Beijing Jiaotong University who plans to go to the UK for a master's degree in 2021, told the Global Times on Wednesday that though the US has many famed universities, the current unfriendly political climate and the coronavirus situation in the US makes the universities less attractive than UK universities.

New Oriental Education also considered the performance of the UK government and universities since the outbreak of COVID-19. 

In response to the sudden cancellation of the IELTS test caused by the epidemic, a number of UK universities responded immediately by recognizing other English test results, including CET-6, the College English Test in China, and even campus English exams.

Many UK universities also delayed deposit payments for 2020 students, giving them more time to meet language and academic requirements. Some universities have lowered IELTS score requirements. 

The epidemic has increased the anxiety and fear among Chinese students about studying abroad. Yang Di, a 27-year-old woman who plans to go to the UK for postgraduate study with her husband, told the Global Times the coronavirus has severely disturbed their plans. 

"My husband and I received our ideal school offer, but due to the outbreak of COVID-19, we had to postpone our study plan. We do not want to take the online course at home while spending so much on tuition fees," she said.

In response to this kind of concern, Queen's University Belfast planned to hire chartered airplanes to fly its Chinese students back to the 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 travel after the 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.

The decision by Queen's University Belfast shows that universities in the UK would like to maintain a good rapport with Chinese students by providing good services.

The short length of schooling is another advantage of UK universities. 

Liu noted that she would like to go abroad for a wider vision and plans to return to China for work after graduation. "Compared with the two-year long master's degree in US universities, the degree in the UK is only one year, which can save time and money in achieving my goal," she said.

Big loss for UK universities from pandemic

The British Council, the UK's international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, also released a survey on June 8 showing that only 3 percent of students among the polled 9,000 Chinese students currently enrolled at UK universities have cancelled their study plans. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic did cause a big loss for UK universities. 

According to the survey report that the British Council sent to the Global Times on Wednesday, UK universities will likely have nearly 14,000 fewer new enrolments from East Asia in 2020-2021 compared to the 2018-19 academic year, leading to a decline of £463 million ($577 million) in spending on tuition and living expenses.

The British Council has been unable to deliver IELTS tests in the Chinese mainland since February, and it resumed paper-based IELTS tests gradually from July 11 at 12 test venues across China and reopened computer-delivered IELTS test centers from July 9 in East China's Shanghai Municipality, South China's Guangzhou Province and Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, the British Council told the Global Times.

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