Recently, the media has been full of stories regarding the role of international students in the education sector, particularly in the light of the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong. There is no doubt that private colleges and universities are heavily reliant on international students, and that China has for some time now provided the lion’s share of those students, so much so that some school report close to 100% of their students from China. In language schools, particularly, this creates difficulties for teachers trying to encourage their students to speak English in class.
This over reliance on students from a single source country (even one as lucrative as the People’s Republic) also creates a potential business “bubble” for many colleges, which are vulnerable to the ebbs and flows from China.
However, the ongoing protests in Hong Kong suggest there are broader risks for both Australia and students when there are broader geopolitical events in play. Naturally, most Chinese students want the best for their nation, and most are probably supportive of the rise of China on the world stage. However, the Hong Kong protests have created a dilemma, and there has been strong pressure from Beijing for the diaspora to support the party line on matters like Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Furthermore, there is growing evidence that many Chinese students get their news from Chinese language apps rather than from the mainstream media, and these apps tend to adhere more closely to the official line from Beijing. When it comes to the Hong Kong situation, students may well be getting a very different story to their teachers.