Education

USA issues less China student visas as interest declines

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Some experts suggest, however, that the trend may only be short-term. 

Analysis of recent US visa data by the Wall Street Journal found that the country issued 31,055 academic visas to Chinese nationals, down from 64,261 for the same period in 2019. 

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, China was the biggest sender of students to the US for ten consecutive years, with 369,548 Chinese students in the US in 2019. The US was also the most popular destination among Chinese students. 

However the pandemic led to a dramatic fall in these numbers, with an almost 40% decrease in the number of Chinese students in the US in 2019-20. 

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“The political tensions between the governments have contributed to the decline”

Grace Zhu, China branch director at market research company BONARD, said while covid has “heavily affected” the number of Chinese students in the US, market insights show that the trend began before the pandemic. 

“The political tensions between the governments have contributed to the decline of Chinese students interested in US,” Zhu said. 

“Set against that, there are increasing interest to other English speaking destinations especially UK or Asian destinations such as Hong Kong or Singapore.”

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BONARD’s research has also found that more education agents in major Chinese cities are promoting UK courses than US ones.

Internet engagement data from BOSSA, an umbrella organisation for Chinese study abroad agencies, also shows a long-term decline in interest in the US as a potential study destination among prospective students and families.

“We measured media consumption and search for ‘study in America’ themed content nationwide in China,” said BOSSA spokesperson Jon Santangelo.

“The US was already behind the United Kingdom in 2019. The UK has vastly outpaced the US and demonstrated the most interest out of all study destinations worldwide, since before the pandemic.”

But Zhu said she doesn’t believe that the trend will necessarily be long-term, predicting that the US market will “bounce back”, although the country may no longer “dominate” in China as other destinations grow in popularity. 

“It depends on whether [US] educators are willing to make more effort and investment in the China market,” Zhu said.

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