StudyTravel Magazine: China tells online students to return to in-person study overseas

The Chinese government has urged students to return to their institutions overseas after announcing that online qualifications will no longer be recognised, a move welcomed by destinations and Chinese agencies.

Jul 30, 2023 Study Travel Magazine

On 29th January, the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) said in a statement that it had decided to cancel special Covid pandemic-era recognition of degrees studied online.

“In order to effectively protect the interests of overseas students and maintain education fairness, our Centre has decided to cancel the special certification rules during the epidemic,” CSCSE said.

“For the 2023 Spring Semester (Southern Hemisphere Autumn Semester) and after that, for the foreign (overseas) diploma certificates obtained by distance learning (including new enrolment and continuing study), the Centre will no longer provide certification services.”

The CSCSE said that if there were special reasons or relevant regulations that prevented a return to face-to-face tuition overseas, it would deal with each case individually, and has clarified some flexibility for students who are unable to obtain visas, accommodation or flights in time. See here for a Q&A for students on the policy.

Catriona Jackson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, welcomed the announcement from the Chinese government, and said that getting the education export sector back to pre-Covid levels was in the interest of universities and the country.

“Happening so close to the new academic year, there are obvious logistical issues that need to be worked through to ensure the smooth return of around 40,000 Chinese students who remain outside of Australia,” she said in a statement.

“We will be working closely with government and industry to ensure universities can quickly respond to this influx and facilitate the safe return of students from China as well as students from other nations.”

Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), tweeted that it was “big news”, but cautioned there would be challenges for flights, accommodation and visa approvals.

In a press conference today (30th January), Jason Clare, Australia’s Minister of Education, said that the Department of Education was meeting with the Department of Home Affairs to “make sure that we’re putting in place all the measures that we can to assist with visa processing”.

Universities New Zealand Chief Executive Chris Whelan welcomed the news and said that the contribution of Chinese students to life on campus has been missed.

“The deadline the Chinese government has set is tighter than we might have expected, but our universities will be working individually and collectively with students and New Zealand and Chinese government agencies to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said.

“The Chinese government is mindful of the logistics involved for its students to return in time for semester one and is providing some flexibility around this. Students should check if this is necessary for their particular situation.”

Geoff Bilbrough, General Manager, Marketing and Communications at Education New Zealand , told StudyTravel Magazine, “The China Government’s announcement regarding online qualifications is good news for our international education sector. Education New Zealand and the sector have been working together since our borders fully re-opened to get students from China to study in New Zealand. We have seen Chinese students return to study in New Zealand since last year and providers have been preparing for Chinese students to return to their campuses. This announcement will further encourage this trend.”

Agency response: Chinese agency association BOSSA welcomed the decision to make students return to their programmes overseas, which follows an announcement earlier this month of China lifting its own quarantine requirements for international arrivals.

Secretary General of BOSSA, Chenxing Sang, said, “Following the announcement, everything has returned to normal as of 2019. Chinese students are more concerned about entry policy than visa policy. They also address the flight issue, which we believe will be resolved by the end of the year. I also noticed that some accommodation service providers have already promoted their products in China to alleviate travel anxiety.”

Chenxing said that the CSCSE decision would be good for academic integrity, following some cases of fraudulent activities during the pandemic.

“From the last three years, there have been numerous programmes carried out to recruit ‘students’ learning online and issuing degrees or other certificates without strict supervision. It resulted in ‘students’ missing online classes while someone else completed their coursework. It was extremely unfair to students who worked hard in class,” Chenxing said.

“Furthermore, I believe that studying abroad is more than just learning knowledge; it is also about experiencing different cultures, communicating with different people, and broadening one’s mind, which cannot be done online.”

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