Students try to flee UK by chartered plane for ‘safer’ China

Mar 29, 2020 by

Universities attempt to calm international students stuck on deserted campuses who can’t get flights home

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A group of Chinese students who tried to charter a plane home are among thousands attempting to leave the UK because they believe they will be safer in China, universities say.

With many international students left behind on deserted campuses – now mostly running a skeleton service – academics have been pitching in to call students and reassure them they aren’t alone.

But universities report that Chinese students, who make up a third of non-European international students in the UK, have been among the most keen to leave. They say Chinese parents were alarmed by the UK government’s initial “herd immunity” message on the virus, and feel the lockdown has come too late.

Last week 70 Chinese students from universities including Cardiff, Birmingham, Warwick, University College London and Edinburgh used a WeChat group to club together with their parents and charter a China Southern flight from London Heathrow to Guangzhou, which had been due to leave on Friday. But with China introducing new flight restrictions, the students have learned they will no longer be able to fly.

A student from Birmingham University who was planning to travel on the flight, which would have cost around £2,000 each, said: “I want to go back because China has taken effective measures against the virus, like closing Wuhan and Hubei province and building new hospitals. It gives me full confidence in Chinese medical care.”

The student, who asked to remain anonymous, has managed to buy a standard plane ticket at a similar price and has not lost money on the charter plane, but says he would have felt safer travelling only with other Chinese students. “At this point we are more concerned with safety than money,” he said.

Krista Charles, a science communication master’s student at Cardiff University, who wrote about the flight for the Cardiff student news site, said: “Some of the students are trying to get back through different routes. One was trying to travel through Thailand, but many haven’t been able to get flights. They are all really worried.”

Source: Students try to flee UK by chartered plane for ‘safer’ China | Education | The Guardian

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