The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) recently drew up a list of 44 specific academic disciplines for student applicant reviews, including “advanced conventional military technology,” cybersecurity, and aviation-related academic fields. The review will determine student visa eligibility and encompass such majors as engineering, artificial intelligence, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science.
The UK‘s Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) stated that applicants must also disclose their “military” relationships starting from next month. The UK move would prevent hundreds of Chinese students from entering the country, and students who have registered in the UK will also have their student visas canceled if they are deemed “at risk.”
Prior to the UK move, President Trump signed an executive order to prohibit Chinese students and researchers related to the military from entering the United States starting on June 1. Subsequently, the United States revoked the student visas of more than 1,000 Chinese students and researchers. Later, the United States tightened the H1B work visa application requirements for international students after graduation and plans to suspend the issuance of Optional Practical Training (OPT), or off-campus work permits, for international students.
Since the escalating tension between the United States and China, the United Kingdom has emerged as the country with the most Chinese students. The latest survey data of the 2020 China Study Abroad White Paper reveals that the UK accounted for 42 percent of the Chinese students studying abroad, compared to 37 percent for the U.S. The latest information also indicates that in 2019, Chinese students studying in the UK in engineering, computer, and science majors accounted for 17 percent of the applied majors.
In August last year, the Report on International Students in the UK 2019 stated that the number of Chinese students studying in the UK reached 106,000 (60,000 of them were masters and doctoral students and 46,000 were undergraduates), accounting for 23.2 percent of the total number of students, an increase of 12 percent compared to last year.
The Beijing-based “China Study Abroad Supervision Network,” published an article last June quoting the 2019 Chinese Students Studying Abroad Survey Report. The report shows that 20.14 percent of students choose the UK as their preferred study destination. The article indicated that one reason for the increase in students studying in the UK is Huawei. In the past five years, Huawei has established cooperative relationships with more than 20 universities in the country.
Huawei has committed to establishing a 5G R&D center at the University of Surrey and is investing more than £1 million (Approx. US$1.3 million) in a computer laboratory at the University of Cambridge. The University of Edinburgh’s world-class 5G framework research is supported by Huawei. The University of Manchester’s graphene research, the Data Science Innovation Laboratory at Imperial College London, and the 5G research project at York University are all supported by Huawei capital.
The increase in Chinese students has certainly brought economic benefits to the UK. However, the theft of intellectual property rights is likely to be high. According to a report published in September by the British diplomatic think tank, The Henry Jackson Society, some 900 Chinese university graduates connected to the Chinese Communist military were studying at 33 universities in 2019.
The report noted: “The United States and the United Kingdom have indeed discovered cases. The United States has discovered many cases where Chinese students stole American scientific and technological information, affecting Western countries if the United States and the United Kingdom persist.
Europe has long enacted some laws to restrict China from the acquisition of sensitive companies. Therefore, the United States and Britain’s restrictions on international students, especially for certain sensitive majors, military, internet, and smart technology, may affect Europe.”
Translated by Joseph Wu and edited by Helen