Experts optimistic about international education

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Though the pandemic has brought challenges for international students studying at Chinese universities and Chinese students seeking education overseas, experts told at a meeting in Shanghai on Monday that they were optimistic about the future of international education.

Wu Yingjun, head of the Shanghai Education Commission’s international exchange division, said the number of international students studying in colleges in Shanghai had dropped from over 60,000 to below 40,000 due to the pandemic, but those seeking academic diplomas remain stable at over 60 percent of the total. He said Shanghai will welcome back more overseas students after the situation is more stable.

Huang Meixu, director of the East China Normal University’s global education center, said the university had inevitably seen a drop in international applicants in the past year due to COVID-19, and some of its international students had chosen to temporarily suspend their studies due to difficulties in taking online classes, such as the lack of face-to-face communication with teachers and classmates and the need to take classes at night due to time differences.

She said the difficulties also exist for Chinese students of colleges in foreign countries. Therefore, East China Normal University has joined with seven American universities to host nearly 1,700 of their Chinese students stuck in China.

But Huang said the situation is temporary and oversea study will still be a popular option for many families around the world.

“Countries in the world are so closely connected now and we are all global citizens,” she said. “Our university will take it as a chance to enhance cooperation with foreign universities, improve our educational services and attract more international students. And also, I would encourage Chinese students to go abroad, if they have the opportunity, to experience more cultures and have exchanges with their peers in other countries.”

Chen Jingying, vice president of East China University of Political Science and Law, said: “Though our international trade was affected by the pandemic last year, it’s recovering well this year. I believe international education is a kind of service that also has a bright future.”

She said in the post-COVID-19 period, universities should explore new models for international education, and also use their experience in organizing online and offline teaching during the pandemic.

“No matter before or after the pandemic, quality is an important factor for international education,” she said. “We now hope to join hands with other universities in Shanghai or even the wider Yangtze River Delta region to develop more high-quality courses for future international students.”

The university set up an International School on Monday and will offer undergraduate programs in business Chinese and international business law and English-taught postgraduate programs in law. It will also run programs with foreign universities, such as National University of Singapore and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US.

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