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SCMP: Number of Americans studying in mainland China falls sharply, but Chinese students still flock to US

Hamartia Antidote

Nov 17, 2013
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United States
United States

  • US students returned to Hong Kong and Taiwan after the pandemic’s first year, but only 211 studied in the mainland during the 2021-22 academic year
  • China continues to dominate the country-of-origin rankings at US colleges and universities
Tallies of Americans studying in Hong Kong and Taiwan recovered slightly after the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the number of American students in mainland China plummeted to the lowest in over a decade, according to new data released on Monday.

Only 211 Americans studied in mainland China during the 2021-22 school year, according to the 2023 version of an annual US government-funded study by the Institute of International Education (IIE). In contrast, from 2018 to 2019, there were more than 11,000 American students in the mainland.

The same study showed that Chinese students continue to vastly outnumber any other foreign group in the US. During the 2022 to 2023 school year, 289,526 Chinese studied in the US, a slight decrease from the 290,086 during the previous school year.
Mainland China’s continued dominance of the country-of-origin rankings comes amid concerns that Chinese students are subjected to greater scrutiny at US borders.

According to the Chinese embassy in Washington, during the past two-plus years, at least 70 Chinese students with legal visas were “interrogated, harassed and deported” by US law enforcement at their port of entry.

But while there has been some evidence that mainland Chinese, particularly those from non-elite backgrounds, are looking elsewhere for their studies, the US still hosts nearly double the number of Chinese students compared with the next largest host, Britain, according to the State Department.

The State Department issued about 91,000 visas this year to Chinese students, according to Brenda Grewe of the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Marianne Craven, also of the State Department, said Chinese students were a “priority and valued by US universities”, noting that China is a key country for colleges’ recruitment efforts.

Continuing a trend from the previous academic year, the number of Chinese pursuing undergraduate studies decreased during 2022-23, to 100,349 – a decrease of 8.4 per cent.

Like last year, Chinese graduate students saw a single-digit percentage increase. From 2022-23, the number of graduate students rose by 2.3 per cent to 126,028, accounting for the plurality of the Chinese student population in the US at 43.5 per cent.

And like last year, about half of the Chinese students studied maths, computer science, engineering and other “STEM” subjects.

Meanwhile, enrolment from India, the second-largest source of foreign students in the US, reached an all-time high of 268,923 in the 2022-23 academic year, an increase of 35 per cent over the previous year.

IIE does not track Americans who are enrolled overseas for full degrees from non-US institutions, nor does it track non-credited educational experiences.

It also lacked study-abroad data for Americans available for the 2022-23 school year. But other sources indicated that the post-pandemic rebound observed for other countries had been slow to surface in mainland China.

US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said in June that only 350 Americans were studying in China.

IIE found that 120 Americans studied in Hong Kong from 2021-22, up from 32 the previous academic year. And 468 Americans studied in Taiwan during the same period, up from 100 the year before.

IIE representatives note that many countries in Asia still had strict Covid-19 rules during that period of time. China did not lift its stringent zero-Covid policies until December 2022, after rolling out massive lockdowns earlier that year.

But the availability of programmes may also have contributed to the decline of American students. In recent years, US programmes have shifted from mainland China to Taiwan. In 2021, Harvard University announced that it was moving its popular summer language programme from Beijing to Taipei after 15 years in the country.

IIE noted in a report released earlier this year that less than 30 per cent of American institutions said they had plans to send students back to mainland China for the 2023-24 academic year. China is no longer in the top 20 of study-abroad destinations; in the two academic years before the pandemic, it was in the top seven.

But there were also signs that resources were slowly moving back to the mainland. Last week, Harvard announced it would be opening a summer study programme in Shanghai in 2024, in which students can take courses in the city’s cultural history and East Asian economics.

Burns said getting people-to-people interactions back on track was a “major priority” for him.

Bochen Han

Bochen Han
Chinese Returning from US.jpg

~500,000 staying (every year)...that's still a HUGE brain drain.

That's over 5 times the number of people that can sit in this stadium.

I don't think people are comprehending how large this number is...and this is every year.

Let's put 4 more copies of the video to enlighten people as to how serious this is.

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good,very good,but MR Trump no happy

Chinese students scramble to return to campuses abroad after Ministry of Education ends certification of online degrees

After announcing that online overseas degrees would no longer be recognised and instructing students to return to the country of their course provider for semester one, the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange released further guidance last week advising students not to worry if they are unable to return immediately.

“Please don’t worry, you can continue to take online classes during the relevant procedures,” the CSCSE said in a statement. The body told students that if they are unable to secure visas, flights or accommodation, they will be allowed to submit documents showing this when they apply for their final certification.

China also clarified that students who are in the last semester of their studies or whose institutions do not have the capacity to facilitate additional students at the moment will also be given the chance to show evidence of this in order to ensure their qualifications are recognised.

Reacting to the news, Chinese study abroad umbrella agency BOSSA said online learning was never expected to be recognised in the long-run and that some agencies had taken advantage of the flexible rules introduced during the pandemic.

“Some agencies defrauded students with distance-learning programs that were packaged as [Ministry of Education] traditionally recognised, foreign degree programs,” said Chenxing Sang, BOSSA secretary general.

Despite the updated guidance, data from accommodation providers suggests that Chinese students are scrambling to return to campuses as soon as possible.

Luke Nolan, founder and CEO of Student.com, said the online marketplace has experienced a surge in demand from Chinese students searching for housing overseas since the decision.

“We have received thousands of enquiries from Chinese students looking to secure accommodation internationally, representing a 75% increase on the same period last year,” Nolan said, adding that interest in the UK specifically had increased by 30%.

Similarly, accommodation company Homes for Students has experienced an increase in Google searches from Chinese speakers across all of its brands compared to last year, with its luxury brand up 124% year on year.

Universities are working to facilitate the arrival of Chinese students on campus. Ula Tang-Plowman, deputy director of international student recruitment at the University of Nottingham, said while the news was not unexpected, it had caught students and institutions off-guard.

“China has always been very clear with its stance on online degrees,” she said, adding that the university was doing everything possible to ensure a smooth transition to on-campus learning.

“This includes fast and clear guidance on CAS and visa, being as flexible and supportive with accommodation options and ensuring additional orientations are available when students do get here.

“However in case of complications with visa, flights or accommodation, Chinese students are advised to keep all evidence of the delay and communicate with us immediately so they can be best supported with their online experience. We understand the CSCSE will take these evidence into consideration when assessing a degree authentication request.”

Gary Palmer, managing director OI Digital Institute and Language at Oxford International Education Group, said, “For some of our students in China, this announcement will bring a welcome end to an uncertain and stressful wait for in-person learning.

“However, for many students the prospect of returning overseas may seem daunting. Through our global study locations and presence in China, we are providing support to our Chinese students as they begin the next phase of their education.”

Visa processing times in the UK have returned to normal after delays last year, but countries including Australia and Canada are still facing significant backlogs, as well as accommodation shortages.

As semester one begins in Australia shortly and with approximately 40,000 offshore Chinese students enrolled in institutions there, demand for visas and accommodation is particularly high. Student.com has seen a 60% rise in enquiries for Australia housing from Chinese students. Universities Australia said it was working with the government to facilitate their safe return.
Most of them will come back in a few years,so Ttrump no happy :-)

This is, in effect, China buying American educational resources. For every additional Chinese student, there is one less American student.

And unlike Indian students, Chinese students pass will return to their home countries, so an increase in Chinese students is not good news for the US.

Of course, these American netizens are still happy.
China's education system is STEM oriented. Which is not suitable for Americans
There are more Chinese studying in their national universities than outside as China develops into a developed country.
I wouldn't be surprised if Chinese stopped sending their students to USA for higher education.
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China welcomes all American girls to come study at their universities and become would be brides. All other American sausages can stay at home in America to get their liberal arts degree!
So the curtain becomes one-way transparent... for some reason the Americans think they can win by NOT studying their opponent.
As China's domestic economy becomes capable of providing more lucrative jobs more Chinese students will be willing to go back to their homes it's how economics work. Still a substantial portion chooses to stay back according to stats. Nations like India and other Asian nations would replace the outflow.
That is bad news for American actually.

Of course, Chinese people are going to USA and Europe for learning.

Because they don't want to mis the advantages of learning aboard, in developed countries.

East Asians are willingly to take the effort and risk for their own future.

Indians are doing the same thing as well.

To be honest, Americans and Europeans should do the same as well.

Forget your politicians.

Do what we must do for our own future and prosperity.

Are politicians going to give us free money? In huge sum? Never!
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