In Britain, the United States and Australia, the coronavirus could blow huge holes in the budgets of universities that have “become addicted to one source of income.”
“LONDON — On Jiani Zhou’s university campus in southwestern England, the racism arrived before the coronavirus did.
One girl headed for the stairs as soon as Ms. Zhou stepped up to a dormitory elevator bank in late January. When two construction workers saw a poster of Asian candidates in the student union election, they muttered, “Vote corona.”
But now that the virus has firmly taken hold in Britain, outmuscling the low-key measures taken by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chinese students are fretting for a different reason: “People here haven’t realized how serious this is,” Ms. Zhou said. “Over in China, there were a lot of control mechanisms in place, but not here yet.”
That wariness toward the way British universities have handled the outbreak could soon have huge financial implications. Universities in English-speaking countries, especially Britain, Australia and the United States, have grown increasingly dependent on tuition from Chinese students, a business model that the virus could dismantle.
With qualifying exams postponed, travel bans spreading and anger rising among Chinese students and parents at the West’s permissive attitude toward public health, enrollment could plummet in the coming years, experts said, potentially leaving countries with multibillion- dollar holes in their universities’ budgets.
Already, analysts are talking about the prospect of government bailouts of higher education if Chinese students stay home, starving universities of the often-exorbitant overseas tuition fees that keep their less-profitable departments afloat.
“In quite a short period of time, we have become sort of addicted to one source of income,” said Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese studies at King’s College London. “If the worst case happens and Chinese students don’t want to come here in September, it’s potentially a kind of seismic change.”
In Britain, some Chinese students are fuming that universities did not act more decisively to move classes online and scrap major events like spring balls. In interviews, they said they were weighing the health benefits of wearing a surgical mask with their fear of being racially abused or even attacked, as a student from Singapore was last month in London.“
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