return to China
International students haven’t been able to attend Chinese universities for close to a year. Source: Peter Parks/AFP

International students have been locked out of China since March 2020 due to COVID-19-related border closures. Many feel their studies are disrupted, fear they will not be able to graduate and are struggling from a lack of support and information by Chinese universities and authorities over their return. Frustrations have reached a crescendo, prompting students to start several online campaigns for their swift return to China.

While the number of COVID-19 cases has been subsiding in China, there’s no news over when international students are expected to return at the time of writing. Countries such as Australia and Canada have slowly begun allowing international students to return, prompting students here to call for the same. Here’s what we know so far about the situation: 

2021 admissions at Chinese universities

According to China Admissions, an official representative of many top Chinese universities, “Admissions are going ahead as normal for 2021 intake,” but added, “The situation for 2021 intake depends on the COVID-19 situation, the policy of China and the university policy.” Most students in China have resumed offline learning but those stuck outside the country are expected to resume online learning until further changes.

When can international students return to China?

For now, the answer remains to be seen but reports note that China is still studying the return of foreign students. “It is not possible to know when the policy will change, we just need to wait for the official news. We advise you to contact your university for the latest announcements and news on their specific policy,” said China Admissions. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin, the Chinese government is serious about the rights of its international students and called for its universities to be responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of its students, in addition to responding to their problems.

China student visa

International students cannot study in China without a valid Chinese student visa, also known as the X visa. China Admissions notes that international students who are already in China can still receive the JW202 form from their Chinese university upon admission acceptance. Scholarship China notes, “JW201/JW202 is a form generated by a Chinese university upon admission acceptance. Once you’re accepted, your Chinese university will send you [a] ‘Visa Application for Study in China (JW202 Form)’.” They note that some Chinese universities can still issue the JW202 to students outside China, subject to policy changes, in which case, students can use the form to apply for a visa at their embassy.

Fees for online programmes

Tuition fees are expected to remain the same despite universities moving teaching online for current international students. Some universities have given discounts to international students, such as the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, which temporarily lowered its tuition fees for academic programmes in the fall 2020 semester by 20%. 

Online campaigns in full steam

International students are campaigning actively online. There is a #TakeStudentsBacktoChina campaign on Twitter. Affected students have also started an online petition calling for clearer communication regarding China’s plan for international students’ return. A public Facebook group Save Foreign Students Of China aims to provide help or information regarding struggles with study, visas or school policies to international students in China, including those currently in and out of the country.