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Chinese international student mobility threatened by coronavirus outbreak

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How will the Coronavirus affect the large Chinese international student market? Source: Shutterstock

With Chinese students making up approximately 10 percent of Australia’s international student population, many fear the coronavirus outbreak in China will hit the country’s international education sector hard.

Still reeling from the bushfires, Australian universities are now stopping Chinese international students from returning for the first semester of the year.

The timing could not be worse for Chinese international students, as many are home for Lunar New Year before the first semester begins in February. Students from Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, face potentially the worst impact on their studies and travel plans.

There are currently five coronavirus cases in Sydney, Australia – with one being a 21-year-old female student who returned to the city on the last flight out of Wuhan before the travel ban and was living in a student accommodation prior to reporting to hospital. She is currently in home isolation.

A UNSW spokesman said, “The student did not attend any classes at the university and stayed on her own in campus accommodation with no close contact before she was admitted to hospital.”

Meanwhile, Xinhua reported on Monday that the Ministry of Education in China has called off English proficiency exams in February, as well as an IELTS test scheduled for January 31, due to the outbreak.

These are the tests that Chinese students take to apply for foreign universities. They include the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The cancellations will likely affect those who plan to apply to universities abroad which have starting dates next term or next year.

The Age reported that the Australia-China Youth Association is advising approximately 100 Chinese international students who are back home, anxious to return to Australia for their studies.

Michael Hester from the Australia-China Youth Association said, “We’ve got a support group for students who are trying to get their heads around their visa and study requirements because they have to be back in Australia by the start of the semester, which for many isn’t possible at the moment,”

Chinese international student markets elsewhere may also be affected


Australia is not the only country with high numbers of Chinese international students.

In the UK, some universities are also gearing up to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in the country from returning Chinese international students.

According to The Guardian, some British universities warned students who were considering going back home for Lunar New Year last week that they risk being quarantined when they return.

The vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK said, “Ensuring the safety and welfare of their students is a top priority for universities. UK universities have been monitoring the coronavirus situation as it unfolds and universities with students in affected areas are working to identify appropriate actions.

“Universities will continue to follow the latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice and to monitor the situation, which is evolving rapidly.”

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