Tired of China’s border closures? Here’s how to transfer out of a Chinese university

Fed up with China's stringent border policies, international students opt to transfer out of Chinese universities
Source: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP

Transferring out of Chinese universities is fast becoming a popular exit route for international students locked out of China who are looking to free themselves from a prolonged academic limbo. For nearly three years, they have not set foot on campus due to China’s ironclad zero-COVID policy barring most foreigners from entering its shores. 

But how exactly does one go about transferring to a different university when you can’t even enter your own campus to begin the paperwork?

All hope isn’t lost, however. In an online survey conducted by China International Students Union (CISU), a student-led advocacy group on Twitter, several students have mentioned finding success in resuming their degrees in other countries like India, Kazakhstan, and Canada, after deciding enough is enough. 

In India, the Delhi High Court issued a notice to the country’s National Medical Council on Feb. 10, 2022 to resolve the ongoing issue regarding Indian medical students locked out of Chinese universities who are seeking to do their practical training at home, The Economic Times reports. These students are in jeopardy of not getting their degrees recognised for professional practice without in-person hospital training.

Moving on: How international students can transfer out of Chinese universities

Transferring from one university to another isn’t a straightforward process when different countries are involved. For one, the education systems might not be compatible, which will require you to retake some classes to fulfil new academic criteria. 

Here are some critical points to consider before making your decision:

  • Transfer credits: Will your new university accept credit transfers for the courses you’ve completed in China? Can you start at your current year of study, or will you have to repeat several classes to match the curriculum in your new university? 
  • Funding: How much does it cost to study in a different country? If you’re on a scholarship, what are the consequences of ending your studies in China? What funding options are available to you in other countries? 
  • Visa and travel restrictions: Are there any policies preventing you from entering and studying in the new country of your choice? 
  • Culture shock: How will you manage yourself emotionally when uprooting and starting all over in another country? 

Your decision will carry serious repercussions on your study plans, so ensure that you have a proper discussion with family members about your intention. Speaking to an academic counsellor is always a good idea to get an outside expert opinion to weigh in on your situation. 

chinese universities

There’s no foolproof method that can ensure a successful transfer out of Chinese universities, but there are measures you can take to ensure a smoother transfer. Source: William Thomas Cain/Getty Images/AFP

Once you’re certain that you have the capacity to study elsewhere, the next steps are all about getting your applications in: 

#1   Contact universities directly

The best way to find out about credit transfers is to speak directly to the admissions or faculty at your new university. Have the admissions team review your current transcripts and syllabus from China to determine your status as a transfer student, so there will be no misunderstandings about your studies. 

#2  Consider several universities as backup 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — submitting applications to a few universities won’t hurt in case your first choice falls through. While it might be easier to apply to schools within the same country, realistically, students locked out of China will want to apply to universities in other countries due to China’s prolonged border closure.

#3  Inform your current university

Let your university in China know of your intentions to transfer. You’ll need your transcripts, and likely one or two letters of recommendation from your instructors to vouch for your application. Some documents explaining course content and syllabus from the faculty would help in assessing credit transfers in your new university. 

#4  Plan for visa applications 

If you’re continuing your study abroad journey in a new country, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. Consider the visa processing times as there may be delays due to the pandemic, the costs involved, and the health screening you need to undergo for your visa, as well as when classes begin in your new university. 

#5  Maintain a good academic standing

This step doesn’t require any paperwork, but is nonetheless important in your application process. You’re essentially applying to a new university all over again, and it goes without saying that good grades go a long way in making your case for a successful admission, especially if you’re aiming for a selective and high-ranking university. 

Ultimately, there is no foolproof method that can ensure a successful transfer out of Chinese universities. The ongoing wait to return to your university may be frustrating, but the wrong move might set back your academic progress over the years. Until China’s policy changes, switching your study destination is could be your best bet to experience on-campus classes again.