June 9, 2023


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Australia is preparing for the return of thousands of Chinese students as relations improve

Australia is preparing for the return of thousands of Chinese students as relations improve

Written by Stella Keough and Louis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is preparing for the arrival of thousands of Chinese students, Australia’s education minister said on Monday, days after China’s Education Ministry warned overseas students that online learning would no longer be recognized.

Australia’s education sector, which generated A$39 billion ($27.66 billion) in export revenue before the pandemic, has strong ties to China, with nearly 150,000 citizens enrolled in Australian universities. Tens of thousands remain abroad after pandemic restrictions and strained diplomatic relations sent many back home.

But with three weeks to go before Australian universities begin, the Chinese Ministry of Education’s (CSCSE) China Service Center for Scientific Exchange said on Saturday it would no longer recognize overseas degrees obtained via online learning, urging students to return to universities abroad. At the earliest. possible.

“Currently, the borders of major international study destinations have reopened, and foreign (overseas) colleges and universities have fully resumed offline teaching,” it said in a statement.

China dropped nearly all of its COVID restrictions in December, which led to an increase in COVID cases and deaths as Beijing shifted its focus to bailing out the ailing economy.

The normalization of education ties comes weeks after Chinese officials eased a ban on Australian coal imports as the two countries work to improve diplomatic ties after more than two years of Chinese trade sanctions that have frozen trade in barley, coal, wine and other goods and services.

Education Secretary Jason Clare on Monday welcomed the move and said he would work with his counterpart in the Home Office to help universities resolve any short-term logistical problems.

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There are currently around 40,000 Chinese students who remain abroad, said Phil Honeywood, chief executive of the International Education Association of Australia, an advocacy body for international education in Australia.

“We expect a lot of Chinese students will be scrambling as we speak to get flights to Australia,” Honeywood said. “However, we imagine there will be a number of requests for deferrals as students will not be able to make it back in time.” .

The University of Sydney expects the “vast majority” of students to be on campus when classes begin in late February. It plans to phase out on-campus distance learning later this year.

The move by the Chinese Ministry of Education was met with anger from Chinese students.

“There’s only 15 days left before school starts – no visa, no flight, no place to live. With such short notice, do you want us all to sleep on the streets?” said one comment on the social media platform Weibo.

($1 = 1.4100 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Stella Keough and Louis Jackson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)