Top U.S. Universities cancel study-abroad programs amid fears of coronavirus
Friday, February 7, 2020
Top U.S. colleges and universities are scrambling to assess the risks to their study-abroad and exchange programs as concerns about China’s coronavirus outbreak spread.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, colleges and universities have had to act fast. In the U.S., nearly all top colleges and universities are canceling study-abroad and global immersion opportunities while also prohibiting travel affecting hundreds of thousands of students who are attending school in order to earn their bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees/PhDs.
This is a global phenomenon—From Europe to Australia and the United States, universities in countries that host Chinese students have seriously reconsidered academic-related travel to and from China. In the U.S., these cancellations add to tension that already exists between the two governments. The U.S. has a large population of foreign students for several reasons, and most of this foreign student population comes from China.
After U.S. officials recommended against nonessential trips to China, several universities limited travel there. This includes Duke, which has an operating campus in China in partnership with Wuhan University, located in the city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak.
Duke Kunshan University closed its campus in Kunshan to nonessential personnel until February 24. The school has also helped students who had recently applied for Chinese residency get their passports from local officials so they could travel home and started developing online learning plans for them.
Two of the 12 confirmed U.S. cases are linked to college campuses. One diagnosis was confirmed at Arizona State University and another at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, which stated that the infected student had recently traveled to Wuhan.
China sends far more college and university students to the United States than any other country—more than 369,000 in the last academic year, according to the Institute of International Education. On average, the U.S. sends more than 11,000 college and university students to China. These students travel to study in another country with hopes to enrich their higher education experiences by living, studying, and sometimes even working in a foreign culture and environment. Every year, Chinese students and U.S. students look to do the same in each other’s host country. Lately, however, the relationship has been strained by visa difficulties, trade conflicts, and U.S. concerns about security risks posed by visiting Chinese students.
“This doesn’t help the current situation, which is very tense right now,” Farnsworth said. “This is a low point in U.S.-China higher education relations, there’s no question.”
Huang Ping, China’s consul general in New York, said Tuesday at a news conference that students who returned to the U.S. from Hubei province, which includes Wuhan, should report to health officials so they can be monitored. He urged the international community to work together to combat the illness, saying the “virus is the enemy, not the Chinese.”
The U.S. is not the only country acting quickly. Top colleges and universities around the world are reacting.
In Germany, the Berlin Free University and Berlin Institute of Technology each said they would not allow visits from China or approve trips to China until further notice. Paderborn University is reviewing China travel plans made by bachelor’s degree and master’s degree candidates as well as their doctoral degree candidates.A spokesman for Silesian University in the Czech Republic said the school postponed exchange programs for 38 Chinese students. Several other colleges and universities issued similar cancellations. Masaryk University in the Czech city of Brno said it was ready to accept 24 students from China who are expected in two weeks.
Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said the university is monitoring the situation but trying not to be “over the top to the point that we’re causing more concern and fear than is warranted in the community.”
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign enrolls over 5,500 students from China. Some of its students from Wuhan who traveled home during winter break opted to self-quarantine or wear masks while going to class to protect others. Several institutions urged anyone returning from China to isolate themselves for two weeks as a precaution.
At Northeastern University, graduate student Lele Luan said that while some fellow Chinese students have taken to wearing masks around campus in Boston, he does not feel the need.
Asian Americans quickly expressed outrage on social media. The center apologized for “any misunderstanding it may have caused” and changed the wording.