China: Could confinement-related fatigue influence outgoing student mobility? – ICEF Monitor

Short on time ? Here are the highlights:

  • Analysts report increased search traffic to study abroad in areas affected by lockdown in China
  • The pandemic continues to disrupt some study abroad planning, at least for Chinese students, with thousands of locked-down students recently barred from taking advanced-level exams needed for admission to some US and European universities. .

It’s too early to be definitive on this, but the pandemic seems to have had a bigger impact than expected on the number of outgoing students from China. There are a number of factors at work, including the prolonged closure of Australia’s borders and the frosty relationship between the US and China. But recruiters wonder, amidst it all, whether or not COVID acted as an accelerator of some longer-term trends that were unfolding in China before 2020.

A recent analysis of Times Higher Education, for example, points out that a pre-pandemic downward trajectory in the number of Chinese students going abroad for postgraduate studies appears to have steepened in the past two years. Looking at student performance at top 10 Chinese universities, THE basically finds that fewer students are going to overseas graduate schools and are instead choosing to stay in China to pursue higher education.

Commenting on the findings of THE, industry experts pointed to a number of possible factors for the downward curve of outgoing graduate students, including strained foreign relations (particularly with the United States), the expansion (and improved ranking and recognition) of Chinese universities, and underlying changes in the Chinese labor market. As Anna Esaki-Smith, co-founder of Education Rethink, explained to THE, “there is less of a reason for Chinese students to leave the country to pursue a globally recognized and valued university degree.” .

We must be careful in interpreting these trends, however, as the top 10 or 20 Chinese universities hardly represent the entire market and there are indications of continued demand for foreign degrees among graduates from universities in China. outside of this higher level.

And there are signs of a strengthening in the number of departures towards the end of 2021 and the first months of 2022, and for some destinations at least. In the UK, for example, the February 2022 data release from the national admissions service UCAS shows a 12% year-on-year growth in the number of Chinese applicants. And in Canada, immigration officials report that the number of new study permits issued to Chinese applicants in 2021 (19,640 in total) exceeded the number granted in 2019 (16,176).

Given the huge importance of the Chinese market in the overall growth of enrollments for study destinations around the world, these are all trends to continue to examine closely. And to these we can now add another variable for this complex market: lockdown fatigue.

The Chinese government has maintained for most of the pandemic a “zero COVID” approach to controlling COVID infections. This has led to prolonged border closures which have disrupted the study programs of thousands of visiting students. More recently, this aggressive strategy has also led to severe lockdowns affecting, as of March 28, 2022, tens of millions of people in Shanghai. Travel bans and partial closures are also in place in other provinces and cities across the country, including Jilin province. Nearly 400 million people were living in full or partial lockdown conditions in China by some estimates as of mid-April.

These confinements already seem to have an impact on studies abroad. Thousands of high school students learned last week, for example, that COVID restrictions would prevent them from taking advanced-level exams administered by the College Board, a step some students are taking to improve their chances of admission into colleges. universities in the United States and Europe.

At the same time, there are indications that the closures are causing residents of closed areas to consider more carefully studying or even emigrating abroad. Another recent analysis, this time from Sunrise International, finds that search traffic volumes for emigration and study abroad queries are increasing in closed areas. “In a recent analysis of Baidu searches in Jiangsu Province, researchers found that immigration-related search volumes increased 24-fold,” Sunrise notes. “Over a similar period, searches for immigration on Wechat increased by 440%, to around 50 million searches, on April 3, as the closures swept more cities. Searches related to immigration increased also increased on Weibo, up to 15 times their normal level, with large increases as particularly strict lockdowns came into effect in Shenzhen and Jilin in mid and late March. to study abroad, which increased around the same time on Baidu.

Sunrise recommends that international recruiters stay in close contact with their partners and prospects in regions affected by the lockdown and reinvest in digital marketing in China during this period, including allocating “some resources to digital marketing on Chinese search platforms and social media”. Students and parents will definitely be online for now.

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