In a survey of 350 Chinese students, 45% said they would now consider studying in the UK – Canada was second at 39% and Australia and the US were joint fourth at 36%.
Compared to its November 2022 survey, demand for Australia has “gradually flattened” over time – and other English-speaking destinations have suffered as the world has opened up.
Non-traditional English-speaking destinations are ‘no longer’ at an advantage – evidenced by the declining interest in countries such as New Zealand and Singapore, which now only see 22% and 20% interest respectively.
Amid the January decision to stop recognizing online documents, Chinese students are seriously pursuing their study abroad plans.
Only 7% of respondents said that the news had affected these plans and that they now have to go abroad instead of studying online.
However, around 35% said the news had no effect on their plans as they still wanted to study on campus.
“It’s really important that institutions support students in many ways to get back to school [destination] countries as soon as possible,” said Grace Zhu, director of BONARD’s China office during a webinar explaining the survey and recent trends.
“These recent changes should encourage Chinese students to return abroad. Traditional destinations have benefited from these recent changes and are now available again,” said Igor Skibickij, BONARD’s Chief Operating Officer.
He noted that Chinese student numbers in the US have been declining for some time and the UK’s upward trend is “likely to continue”.
BONARD also surveyed 350 parents of international K-12 students and found the UK to be the joint most popular destination, with 40% considering it, along with Australia, with Canada close behind.
The survey found that the USA was the most frequently chosen destination by students for their devices to help improve their English skills.
However, the US has fallen out of favor with parents who much prefer the UK for its facilities for improving English.
While Australia has seen some recovery in student numbers, both Australia and Canada continue to see declines.
The survey also noted that agency recommendations were a popular reason for choosing Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s really important that institutions support students… to return to their destinations”
“Agencies also considered current market trends and demand, and selected countries because of many favorable factors for Chinese students,” Zhu noted.
BONARD also found that agencies were responsible for around 60% of all bookings in China, meaning it remains the “number one channel for recovery”, especially as in-person recruitment reopens.
It also seems that the behavior of Chinese students is increasingly leading to a return to China.
In a general outlook, Skibickij pointed out that the total number of students studying abroad in 2021 was only 12,500 more than the number of students who graduated abroad and returned back to China, both numbers exceeding one million.
“They are all job seekers who want to find quality work for their efforts overseas.
“It’s really important to understand how Chinese students focus on their employability prospects. This should be taken into account when designing programs for China,” explained Skibickij.
The survey backs this up, with 34% of students saying their graduate plans were unaffected by the pandemic control policy changes – and that they would still return to China to find work.
Only 10% stay abroad for further studies and only 4% stay abroad for work.
Those whose plans changed – 10% decided to stay abroad to study, 2% to find work – were very much in the minority.
“It’s really important to understand how Chinese students focus on employability”
More parents than students are worried about Covid – 40% of students said they were less worried than before but still worried, while 51% of parents said the same, with 10% even saying they were more worried than before.
Budget was also a notable trend the survey explored – and surprisingly, only one in five students said their study abroad budget had decreased. About 57% said it had not changed.
Parents were a similar story, with 57% also saying their child’s education budget had not changed and 20% saying their budget was slightly lower – with just 6% saying it was a lot lower.