International students to rush back to Australia following Chinese government ban 

The Chinese government’s recent snap ban decision on people studying at foreign universities online has pressured students overseas to return to Australia and continue their studies in-person.

China’s Ministry of Education announced the end to special Covid pandemic rules on Saturday, which allowed Chinese international students to study online from home in China. 

Under the new rules, more than 40,000 Chinese students enrolled at Australian universities must complete their courses face-to-face for their degrees to be recognised. 

In the announcement, the Chinese government stated that from the first semester of 2023, they would no longer recognise overseas qualifications gained via remote study. 

“According to relevant national policies, cross-border long-distance foreign (overseas) degree certificates and higher education diplomas are not within the scope of our center’s certification”, part of the statement read. 

“To effectively protect the interests of students who receive overseas education and maintain the fairness of education, the Center has decided to abolish the special accreditation rules.” 

The Chinese Ministry of Education noted face-to-face teaching had resumed across several institutions overseas, adding that “diplomas and degree certificates awarded in the Spring semester of 2023 (Autumn semester in the Southern Hemisphere) and beyond through cross-border online studying” would not be accredited. 

Chief Executive Officer at International Education Association of Australia Phil Honeywood said that there were about 40 000 Chinese students currently offshore. 

Last year, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) set a deadline for all international students who hold an Australian student visa to return by 30 June 2023 in compliance with the National Code. 

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson welcomed the decision, stating that this move would benefit university funding and research as a “significant amount of university research is funded partially by international students”. 

Jackson added that international students contribute around “$40 billion every year onto the Australian bottom line”.

Approximately 25 per cent of international students studying in Australia come from China. 

This shock decision has forced thousands of international students to scramble to return to Australia, amidst increasing flight, accommodation costs and extended visa delays. 

Following the news, China’s education ministry released another statement on Sunday to clarify that students would be able to seek an exemption from the rule if they were unable to acquire a visa, or could not find a flight or accommodation in time for the commencement of semester 1 2023. 

Students who could not change to face-to-face study and had already enrolled in online classes were also able to seek an exemption. 

“For overseas students who are affected by the epidemic and are forced to choose to take some or all courses online, they must meet the requirements of foreign (overseas) universities. 

After the degree conferring conditions are met, the degree obtained can be certified normally. This “Announcement” only cancels the special practice during the epidemic and restores the original certification rules”, the body stated. 

Around 3500 students have already arrived in Australia in January in preparation for resuming face-to-face teaching this year.