In light of the Coronavirus epidemic that has claimed the lives of 427 people at the time of writing, universities are suspending their study abroad programmes to China.
The aim is to prevent students from travelling to China, where the virus is spreading rapidly, reflecting warnings given by governments against travel to the epidemic’s centre.
In the US, universities are doing so following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and the Department of State’s updated Level 4 – the highest of its kind – travel advisory to avoid all non-essential travel to China.
Boston University, George Washington University, University of Tennessee, University of Rhode Island and the University of Minnesota are among those who have cancelled their study abroad programmes as well.
According to its student newspaper GW Hatchet, students at George Washington University who were scheduled to study abroad in China are now slated to go to other countries like Australia and Serbia instead.
A number of international students are reportedly still stranded in hardest-hit Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. The city is on lockdown, hospitals are packed to the brim, and people are advised to isolate themselves at home.
UNC, Duke, and N.C. State are among the colleges restricting travel to China. Study-abroad students are among those affected most.https://t.co/MmgHUNVOlI
— Carolina Connection (@UNCConnection) February 1, 2020
China has become a major study abroad destination in recent years, with the highest number of students coming from Africa, followed by France. This is largely in part due to universities’ efforts to improve their international rankings and a high number of scholarships offered by the Chinese government.
The current outbreak is making a detrimental impact on the country’s international student mobility as international students are unable to enter or leave the country.
Julie A Friend, director of the Office of Global Safety and Security at Northwestern University told Inside Higher Ed, “The degree to which many colleges and universities are intertwined with China, whether it be through robust incoming exchange programmes and outbound students, joint degree programmes, collaborative research projects, short-term travel, language learning – there are just a lot of different ways in this day and age in which we are connected to China.”