Western Universities Rely on China. After the Virus, That May Not Last
Universities in English-speaking countries have grown increasingly dependent on tuition from Chinese students, but the business model could be dismantled by the coronavirus.
With qualifying exams postponed, travel bans spreading and anger rising among Chinese students and parents at the West’s permissive attitude toward public health, enrollment could plummet in the coming years, experts said, potentially leaving countries with multibillion-dollar holes in their universities’ budgets.
In Britain, some Chinese students are fuming that universities did not act more decisively to move classes online and scrap major events like spring balls.
And in the United States, swift shutdowns left international students without any help as they packed up and tried to find affordable flights home.
Taken together, those slights and miscalculations have dented the reputation of overseas universities in China, analysts said.
“I think this is going to exacerbate the sense that has been growing for years that the U.K., and to a lesser extent the U.S., are not great destinations for international students, especially Chinese students,” said Craig Calhoun, a former director of the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Applications and acceptances could go down precipitously, and I think very few U.K. universities have planned for that.”