216,000 Chinese students study in UK as a result of US visa restrictions
Published: May 20, 2021 08:43 PM
All the passengers on the direct flight are international students heading to 23 UK universities. Photo: cnsphoto

All the passengers on the direct flight are international students heading to 23 UK universities. Photo: cnsphoto

Chinese students have become the largest group of international students in the UK despite deteriorated China-UK relations, with analysts saying that the situation is caused by both the impact of visa restrictions from the US on Chinese students and the UK's attempts to maintain normal cultural exchanges.

Around 216,000 Chinese students are now studying in the UK, according to the Chinese Embassy in the UK. Meanwhile, the number of entrants from China for higher education in the UK each year since the admission year 2012-13 has exceeded the number of all EU countries combined and continues to rise, surpassing  100,000 in the 2019-20 academic year, based on statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, a UK-based agency responsible for handling data on the country's higher education.

Statistics from the US show that the number of Chinese college students has been stable at 360,000 since 2017, according to 2021 data from Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data.

"Even though the US began to ease the visa restrictions on Chinese students earlier this month, (former US president) Donald Trump still had both a long and negative impact on its China policy, which has made it harder for the Biden administration to turn the tables," Jia Guoqing, a professor of the School of International Studies, Peking University, told the Global Times on Thursday, adding that there is still a long way to go before the US removes restrictions on Chinese student visas.

Jia said that the US has listed ordinary Chinese students as suspected "potential spies" as a reason for increasing visa restrictions, especially when applying for majors such as high-tech areas, which to a certain extent has pushed Chinese students away to other countries such as the UK

As for the UK, Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday that "as the relationship between China and the UK continues to decline, the UK obviously doesn't want to cut off exchanges with China on a cultural level, as Chinese students are still a major income source for its education sector."

COVID-19 has had a negative impact on Chinese students seeking to study abroad, but students' demand for overseas education has not fundamentally changed, according to the Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad (2020-21) from the Center for China and Globalization in March.

Shi added that since the UK has flattened out the number of COVID-19 cases over the past few months, Chinese students are able to resume their studies again.

However, the Chinese Embassy in the UK issued a document on Thursday reminding international students to take precautions due to the prevalence of race crimes resulting from the pandemic, and also due to the fact that the UK continues to point fingers at China's Xinjiang affairs with smears and lies.