China to Reopen Its Borders to International Students | This Week in Admissions News

02 SEPT 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week, Chinese authorities appear to be preparing for the return of large numbers of international students. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


China to Reopen Its Borders to International Students

In the last two years, China has almost completely closed its borders to international students. Now it appears that China is preparing to welcome international students back in large numbers.

On August 11, Air China resumed flights between Beijing and London, and shortly after, other local airlines began flying from Shanghai and Guangzhou. Direct flights between Beijing and Manchester are also expected to resume soon.

“Welcome news! International students can now return to China to resume their studies,” wrote Ma Hui, China’s ambassador to Cuba, in a recent post on Twitter. The announcement comes as China prepares to ease its COVID-19 restrictions on foreign tourists after 2 and half years.

Education analysts have been predicting a steady increase in international students to China for months. While some overseas students returned in July, these have been exceptions rather than the norm.

Nonetheless, Beijing's latest official messages signal its readiness for the mass return of international students.

“Since the onset of Covid-19, China has responded by following the dynamic zero-Covid policy and working to prevent imported cases and domestic resurgence of the virus,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin announced on August 19.

“With a science-based and prudent approach, we have improved visa and other policies to better facilitate cross-border travel and exchanges and cooperation with other countries – we welcome the return of international students to China to resume their studies,” he continued.

Roughly two dozen countries, mostly in Asia, had received permission for their students to apply for a Chinese X1 study visa by the end of August.

Chinese officials have also contacted students across Africa. “China is ready to overcome difficulties caused by the pandemic and help African students who previously studied in the country to return,” the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Ethiopia announced in a statement.

Progress will, however, take some time, since Wang Wenbin did not provide a definitive timeline for students' reentry during his press conferences; much of the information about the reopening of China’s borders is gathered via Twitter and embassy websites.

During an interview with The PIE News, China International Student Union's representative stated that students seeking to apply for visas now face “new hurdles.”

“We have issues now such as flight availability and cost as well as quarantine. Some airlines require five days quarantine before departure and also some schools are planning online classes until next year, so for students there may not be enough of a reason to go back yet,” the representative commented.

It is clear that the country is keen to regain its international reputation as a study destination despite these ongoing issues. With the restart of UK-China flights, Cathay Pacific has also updated their website with flights to China, which is great news for students across Asia hoping to return to China for their studies.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. The Daily Pennsylvania reports Penn’s $20.5 billion endowment “grew 364.8% from 2000 to 2020”, with the largest percentage increase in endowment of all the Ivy League universities. Yale University had the second-fastest endowment growth at 209.4%, followed by Brown, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Cornell. While Harvard’s endowment is the largest in the country at $53.2 billion (USD), it has grown at a slower rate than most of its Ivy League peers.
  2. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, thousands of students will return to campuses where vaccination mandates for COVID-19 have been dropped for the fall semester. Changing state laws and politics forced some colleges to shift, while others dropped their mandates voluntarily, without legal pressure. The article notes the emerging trend toward more relaxed COVID-19 regulations reflects a “country that’s going back to normal with fewer vaccine mandates.”
  3. As the hotly-anticipated Supreme Court case on affirmative action at Harvard and UNC approaches, The New York Times analyzes a similar case from years past, writing that in 15 years since the University of California and University of Michigan were forced to stop using affirmative action in admissions, "both systems have tried to build racially diverse student bodies through extensive outreach and major financial investment, well into the hundreds of millions of dollars" — but "those efforts have fallen abysmally short." The story speculates on what may come of a potential Supreme Court decision to outlaw affirmative action in university admissions, noting at the Universities of California and Michigan, data points show that eliminating the practice has jeopardized student body diversity in multiple ways.
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