• Alexander Liu-Middleton


In light of the current pandemic, around 60% of Chinese students who have applied to study in the UK in 2021 say they are either likely to cancel their applications or are undecided, according to a recent survey of 11,000 applicants by the British Council.

The study, conducted at the end of March / early April, also reported that about 40 per cent of those already studying outside China who have returned to China, are either unlikely to return to their university or might still decide not to travel back for their courses.

Global head of insights and consultancy at the British Council, Matt Durnin, said there are “potentially severe implications” for higher education in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

China is the UK's largest source of international students. The country issued over 115,000 study visas to Chinese students in 2019, around 45 per cent of the total issued.

Most of the respondents are in the process of applying to UK universities, with 98% having already applied to study abroad this year choosing the UK for at least one of their applications.

Out of 8,500 who have applied to study this year, 22% say they are likely or very likely to cancel their plans and 39% are undecided. However, 27% said that they are not at all likely to cancel, or unlikely to cancel.

Key concerns include: 79% say they are very concerned about health and well-being; 87% are very concerned about personal safety and 86% are concerned about finances. 

Of the 1,800 respondents who are already studying outside China this year, 13% say they are unlikely to return and 28% remain undecided about returning.

Although 85% of respondents are postgraduate students, 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.  

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