Coronavirus Resources & Updates:
Information for managing Chinese student admissions and recruitment during the COVID-19 situation
By eduFair Staff | Last updated: June 15, 2020
The coronavirus continues to disrupt student life on campuses across the world.
eduFair has put together the following resources to help admissions staff navigate the challenges affecting schools and students during the coronavirus situation.
COVID-19 has impacted Chinese student admissions since the earliest signs of pandemic, shutting down education fairs, visa offices, and international flights. Now, the virus is affecting campuses across the world as countries respond to its spread.
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Impact on the Industry and Admissions
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, the extent of disruption to education still remains to be seen.
Initially centralized in China, the virus first impacted those students applying and traveling to schools abroad. Now a global pandemic, it's unclear how the disruption will affect future semesters.
With regard to Chinese students, institutions have responded to disruptions in many different ways.
In March 2020, the Institute of International Education (IIE) compiled a survey of 234 US higher education institutions with regard to Chinese student mobility. Combined, these institutions hosted over 175,000 Chinese students during the 2018-2019 academic year.
Institutions responding to IIE's survey reported that they were responding to Chinese students unable to travel to the US. The most common approaches were remote learning, deferred study, and online classes. Nine percent of institutions reported that they were offering refunds.
The majority (76%) of schools also reported that their outreach and recruitment methods had been affected:
51% reported that recruitment events in China had been canceled.
43% reported delays in receiving students' standardized test scores due to exams being canceled.
22% reported that yield events in China had been canceled.
Other factors included delays in application materials, inability of students to attend visa interviews, and inability to work with Chinese recruitment agencies.
The above problems have only intensified as the virus has spread across other countries. In response, many universities are adapting their admissions practices.
Commenting on a range of campuses, Inside Higher Ed reports that numerous universities have gone test-optional and will use other application materials to determine the academic abilities of applicants. Other campuses are adding flexibility to application, acceptance, and entry deadlines as students deal with unprecedented obstacles and uncertainty in going abroad.
Other schools are taking previously offline events online by offering virtual campus visits, online information sessions, and live-streamed graduation ceremonies.
eduFair has also compiled a list of tips for schools trying to reach Chinese students digitally.
All organizers of standardized tests have announced cancelations affecting China. This has caused student concerns over the ability to collect scores in time to meet application deadlines.
In addition, many Chinese schools have shut down, delaying other application materials like transcripts and recommendation letters.
In response, some institutions have announced that they will extend deadlines, accept delayed materials, or admit students on a conditional basis until materials can be provided.
Meanwhile, exam organizers are adapting their offerings. Several have announced transitions to online testing formats, while others are offering makeup exam dates. At the same time, numerous universities and colleges have begun to accept web- and app-based exams like the Duolingo's English Test.
Updates to major standardized tests:
TOEFL (ETS) - Updated June 6, 2020: The TOEFL ITP test (available in Mainland China), was first administered on May 30, with testing available every weekend. The cost is RMB995 and test-preparation materials are available on the TOEFL website free of charge.(https://toefl.cn/)
IELTS - Updated June 6, 2020: All test dates in Mainland China have been suspended until June 30, 2020. (https://www.ielts.org/news/2020/covid19-information-for-our-global-test-taker-community)
PTE Academic (Pearson) - Updated June 6, 2020: The following test centres in Mainland China are open:
ACT - Updated June 6, 2020: ACT has rescheduled its April 3 and 5 non-US test dates to June 12 and 13. Students with April test dates will not automatically be rescheduled and should follow the email instructions from ACT for scheduling the June exams. (https://global.act.org/content/global/en/covid-19-international.html)
SAT (College Board) - Updated June 6, 2020: If conditions permit, the SAT will be administered every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. This includes a new administration on September 26 and the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5. (https://pages.collegeboard.org/natural-disasters)
Students can get early access to register for August, September, and October if they’re:
Already registered for June
In the high school class of 2021 and don’t have SAT score.
SSAT (EMA) - Updated June 6, 2020: Testing on June 13/14 will continue for test-takers in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam (https://go.enrollment.org/alerts)
GMAT (GMAC) - Updated June 6, 2020: GMAT testing has been suspended in Mainland China through June 2020. The online GMAT exam is not available in Mainland China. (https://www.gmac.com/why-gmac/gmac-news/update-on-coronavirus)
GRE (ETS) - Updated June 6, 2020: ETS has postponed all GRE General Tests in Mainland China until March 31. An online test is unavailable in Mainland China. Additional testing dates in Mainland China will be scheduled when regular testing resumes. (https://www.ets.org/s/cv/gre/asia-pacific/)
IB (International Baccalaureate) - Updated June 6, 2020 IB will no longer hold May 2020 examinations for its Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme. Per IB, "the student will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate... based on student's coursework." (https://www.ibo.org/news/news-about-the-ib/may-2020-examinations-will-no-longer-be-held/)
Education Fairs & Recruitment Events
Numerous factors are affecting education fairs and recruitment events in China. In addition to lockdowns, the government has banned large-scale gatherings, and many commercial flights have been suspended.
Information about upcoming events in China:
BOSSA-COSSA, an association of education agents in China, surveyed 100 Chinese education organizations (discussed in greater detail below). These organizations, which include some of China's largest education companies, included insights on their students' sentiments.
Two-thirds of organizations say that the total number of students going abroad will decline this year. (While 34% say the number will stay the same or increase.)
However, the majority of organizations (64%) report that students will will not change their plans to study abroad. Of students who will change their plans, 28% have changed their destination country.
Students also report concerns over racism or xenophobia. Presumably because the disease originated in China, there have been many incidents involving harassment and violence directed toward people from China (or even those appearing to be of Asian descent).
Institutions should be aware that Chinese students are highly aware of these incidents, and they often receive large attention on Chinese news and social media. Not only is it important for schools to respond to COVID-19 with regard to public health, but they should also show their commitment to maintaining safe, inclusive, and welcoming environments for all international students.
Agents & Chinese Institutions
In February 2020, The Beijing Overseas Study Service Alliance and the Chinese Overseas Study Service Alliance (BOSSA-COSSA) surveyed 100 education agencies in China regarding the COVID-19 situation.
The survey included many segments of China's international education industry, including large corporations (such as New Oriental and AOJI), language schools, international departments within institutions, and small- to medium-sized enterprises.
Key findings from BOSSA-COSSA survey:
83% of responding organizations are working remotely with only 3% working from the office and 13% not working at all.
73% report fewer student consultations than in past years.
There are many factors slowing down student applications and admissions. The most common reasons are travel restrictions, incomplete application materials, and delayed visa applications. Relatively few agents report that schools themselves have blocked admission.
30% of organizations have received reports of discrimination of international students abroad.
eduFair's conversations with Chinese agents and schools echo the BOSSA-COSSA findings. Agents and schools report large short-term disruptions with students unable to complete applications and meet face-to-face. However, in the long-term, the majority of their students are determined to follow through with their plans to study abroad even if it means delaying entry.
Government Policies, Travel Restrictions, & Visas
As countries try to control the spread of the coronavirus, governments have enacting different measures limiting the movement of people.
These measures can affect students in several ways. Travel restrictions may limit the movement of students between countries while visa offices have closed in China preventing students from gaining the document necessary for travel. At the same time, governments have created policies with specific regard to international students (such as an automatic extension of student visas for those already in-country).
The following outlines changes in immigration, visa, and travel policies for Chinese students in key destination countries:
On March 26, 2020, the Civil Aviation Administration of China ordered that Chinese airlines are limited to flying one route to/from any given foreign country no more than once per week. Foreign airlines are allowed to fly one route into China per week.
In addition, airlines have also self-imposed cancelations of flights to and from China. Combined, these measures have made it difficult for Chinese nationals to return to China.
At the time of outbreak, official figures showed 1.6 million Chinese students were studying outside of China. As of April 2, 2020, 1.4 million still remained abroad.
On March 26, 2020, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that it was temporarily suspending entry of foreign nationals with visas and residence permits.
As of June 17, 2020, China's policy has remained largely unchanged. With the only expection being in Shanghai, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Shanghai Municipality Government has issued two channels – a normal channel and a fast track channel – to facilitate the entry into China of employees essential for business operations.
The fast track channel is only applied to employees of companies whose country of origin has signed a fast track agreement with China.
Various countries’ embassies and chambers of commerce have been negotiating with the Chinese government to establish fast track channels. By far, China has signed fast track agreements with Germany, France, South Korea, UK, Japan, and Singapore.
The Australian Government announced on March 19, 2020 a travel ban for all non-residents and non-citizens of Australia effective as of 9pm AEDT March 20, 2020. This requirement is applicable to all international travellers until further notice and remains in effect as of mid-June 2020.
The Australian Embassy and Consulates in China continue to operate and provide consular services including visa processing, although processing times may take longer than normal. The Australian government has created a dedicated website for international students found here.
As of June 8, 2020, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, who do not have COVID-19, signs or symptoms of COVID-19, have no reason to believe they have COVID-19, will be permitted into Canada if they are entering for an essential reason, and will remain with the immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days. All arrivals must still observe a 14-day quarantine. This change does not apply to the immediate family members of those on temporary (student) visas.
As of April 29, 2020: International students with a valid study permit or approval for a study permit issued on or before March 18, 2020, are exempt from travel restrictions.
Online courses won't affect student Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) eligibility. Students can complete up to 50% of their program from outside of Canada.
International students providing essential services are temporarily permitted to work 20+ hours/week.
The Canada Emergency response Benefit (CERB) is providing temporary income support of $500CAD/week for up to 16 weeks for qualifying international students.
Source: Government of Canada.
ICOS states that "All international students whose visas are due to expire between March 20, 2020 and May 20, 2020 will have their visa permission automatically renewed for this period.
"Where an English language school has closed due to Government advice regarding COVID-19, all international students will be considered to have met their attendance requirement.All other rules will remain in place and students will be required to renew their registrations as usual.
"International students on a Stamp 2 visa may work up to 40 hours per week while schools and colleges are closed because of the pandemic. International students who are working part-time should check if their job category is considered to be an essential service. See this link for details.
Phase 2 of Ireland's plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions commences on 8 June 2020. The most important point of which, for international students, is that "All non-essential overseas travel to and from Ireland should be avoided. Passengers arriving from outside the island of Ireland are expected to self-isolate for 14 days.".
As of April 27, entry into New Zealand is allowed only for citizens and residents except for very limited circumstances.
Students may face difficulty when applying for visas. Although Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has increased its visa processing capacity, many of its offshore offices (including Beijing) remain closed. For existing applications, Immigration New Zealand faces limited processing capacity but has announced that it will prioritize processing for full-fee paying student visas and post-study work visas.
For students already located in New Zealand whose visas will expire between April 2 and July 9, their visas will automatically be extended through September 25, 2020. Affected students should receive email communication about their extended status.
The UK Home Office has stated that: "No individual of any nationality whose leave has expired or is due to expire between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, and who cannot leave the UK because of COVID-19, will be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future".
Make sure students keep any evidence for themselves, for example, screen shots or other notifications of cancelled flights, and information about entry restrictions for the country they need to travel to. This is particularly important they you need to make an immigration application in the future, when they would usually have to declare any periods of overstay and may need evidence of what caused it.
Most visa application centres outside the UK are closed, but some are now re-opening, depending on local restrictions. The first phase of re-openings took place from 1 June and the Home Office has said that the following application centres are set to open from 22 June: Changsha, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, Shenzhen,Wuhan, Xi'an. Check which centres have actually opened again using the links in the Home Office guidance.
Currently, Chinese students may be unable to travel to the US due to travel restrictions and limitations of consular services.
On January 31, 2020, President Trump signed a proclamation suspending entry of non-US citizens and non-permanent residents who have been physically present in China within 14 days preceding entry into the United States. This proclamation went into effect on February 2, 2020 and was reiterated in a subsequent proclamation on May 24. As of June 15, the suspension remains in effect.
On February 3, 2020, all U.S. Embassy and Consulates locations (Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang) canceled existing appointments for nonimmigrant visas, including student visas. These offices remain closed. The US Department of State has said it will resume routine visas services “as soon as possible,” but, as of June 15, specific dates and information had not been released. However, U.S. Consulates have made available expedited appointments to students whose, "purpose of travel is to begin or resume a valid program of study in the United States within 60 days when no regular visa appointments are available." This policy allows new and returning students to apply for visas as long as they apply within 60 days of their program start data and have not been denied a visa in that last six month.
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