More than half of Chinese students ‘could still cancel UK study plans’

British Council survey suggests more than a third are still undecided about whether to continue with applications 

April 9, 2020
Study abroad application

About 60 per cent of Chinese students who have already applied to study in the UK next year are either likely to cancel their plans or have yet to decide, according to a new survey.

The survey of nearly 11,000 people also found that about 40 per cent of those already studying outside China were either unlikely to return or might still decide not to travel back for their courses.

Matt Durnin, global head of insights and consultancy at the British Council, who led the survey, said the results emphasised how there were “potentially severe implications” for higher education in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Most of the respondents to the survey, carried out between 27 March and 3 April, were “in the pipeline” to study in the UK, with 98 per cent of those having already applied to study abroad this year choosing the country for at least one of their applications.

Of almost 8,500 who had applied to study this year, 22 per cent said that they were likely or very likely to cancel their plans and 39 per cent were undecided. However, 27 per cent said that they are not at all likely to cancel, or unlikely to cancel.

Asked about their concerns over applying to the UK, 79 per cent said that they were very concerned about health and well-being; 87 per cent were very concerned about personal safety and 86 per cent were concerned about finances.

Meanwhile, of 1,800 respondents who were already studying outside of China this year, 13 per cent said that they were unlikely to return and 28 per cent remained undecided about returning.

Although the survey was heavily weighted in its responses towards postgraduate students, who made up 85 per cent of the overall respondents, the British Council said that there were no significant differences in how the two groups answered the questions.

The British Council’s senior adviser on education research, Michael Peak, said: “This will be a challenging year for international higher education, globally and in the UK.  

“We know that international students are incredibly resilient, but like everyone at this time, they need support and reassurance that whenever they engage with UK education, they will be part of a high-quality learning experience.”

China is the largest source of international students in the UK, with more than 115,000 study visas issued to students from the country last year, representing about 45 per cent of all international study visas.

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