Growth in the number of Chinese students pursuing study in four top destinations – United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia – is “slowing significantly”, according to a new report. But while Canada and Australia are diversifying their international student populations, the US and UK continue to rely too heavily on China as a source country.
Rethink China: The end of the affair, an inaugural report from the consultancy Education Rethink, says that despite strong growth in outbound student numbers from China, the latest data shows that “the long-predicted end of the Chinese student boom may soon arrive for the US, UK, Canada and Australia”.

That we know, but in the report co-founders and managing directors of Education Rethink, Jeremy Chan and Anna Esaki-Smith, use fresh (big) data to track Chinese students by means of student visas or equivalents, take a comparative look at countries, and examine student mobility destination markets and push-and-pull factors that are influencing student flows.
Although visa issuance is not an apples-for-apples comparison with enrolment, they write, “it can get us very close to the mark, and much more quickly than other national-level sources”.

Key findings
The report says a number of factors are contributing to the decline in Chinese student flows to the four English-speaking countries.
They include “the emergence of less expensive study destinations in Asia and Europe that offer what is perceived as better value and a seemingly more welcoming environment. The increasingly weighty role geopolitical issues play in international higher education is also noted.”
According to the study’s key findings: “Canada and Australia are diversifying their international student populations so as to be less reliant on China as a source country.” Meanwhile, the US and UK “continue to rely heavily on China as a source country for international students”.
“Total enrolments of Chinese students across nearly every level of study in the US dropped in 2018-19, with the biggest decline in language studies.” In America, the total Chinese student population peaked in 2017-18. The downward trajectory continued into 2019-20 despite a mild rebound in visa issuances this year.
“UK student visa issuances to Chinese nationals are up 21% year-on-year, while issuances to the rest of the world have increased 8%.” But an over-reliance on Chinese enrolments, the report says later, “means there is little room for further, sustainable growth beyond current enrolment levels”.

Read more : Karen MacGregor : University World News : 30 November 2019