The number of Chinese students pursuing degrees abroad is likely to “peak in five years, and then enter stagnation or even a slight decline,” says one study.
China, the largest sender country for foreign students, has experienced strong growth in recent decades, increasing demand for university degrees in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, with some institutions leaning heavily on international student fees. However, demand from Chinese students is likely to decline despite the trend of Western countries easing border restrictions soon.
Although student flow has recovered somewhat since COVID-19 severely curtailed international travel, analysts are pessimistic about the possibility of student mobility figures rising even higher.
“Even with the return seen from the relaxation of restrictions, these enrollment numbers are less likely to return to pre-epidemic levels,” wrote Claudia Wang and Monique Zhang, analysts at Oliver Weiman, co-author of the study and consultant.
“Higher geopolitical tensions and deviations in strategies to contain the epidemic will only further delay the recovery of student outflows. And all this is compounded by the shrinking third-class population and the declining desire to go abroad. “
Even before the epidemic stopped international travel, there were signs that Chinese student flows were declining, with the number of degree candidates at US universities in 2015 and Australian universities beginning to decline and decline in 2017, the authors note.
At the same time, the demand for education in the country has increased, with China doubling its domestic offerings.
“We’re seeing a growing headwind from policymakers,” Wang said Times Higher Education.
In recent years, China has updated its school curriculum to “emphasize educational sovereignty” and limit further expansion of international schools, which are used to “provide a base” for potential foreign students, he said. The Chinese government has tightened controls on passport applications, international admission tests and research institutes abroad, Wang said.
The authors make their predictions based on a combination of sources, including recent statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Stakeholder interviews; Visa Center Information; And the feeling of studying abroad in parental studies. They suggested that China could follow in the footsteps of other Asian countries that have strengthened their education systems and where premiums for foreign degrees have declined.
“It simply came to our notice then [of outgoing students] If that country significantly improves the accessibility and quality of higher education, it should be left out, “Wang said, adding that this happened in Japan and later in South Korea.
However, despite the expected leveling of offshore Chinese student flows, the authors hoped that overall student mobility would increase somewhat. They predicted that other countries, such as India and Vietnam, would “keep pace” with sending more students abroad.
“We believe the sudden drop in outflow numbers will not happen, because the kids are still in the pipeline to prepare to study abroad,” Wang said.
Yet, he said, where China is concerned, all signs point to a scenario where “this engine will cool down.”