COVID-19 and Policy Crisis: Perceptions and Experiences of Chinese International Students in Australia

Jing Qi
Author/s and Affiliations:
Jing Qi, RMIT University
Cheng Ma, Shanghai Art and Design Academy

Australia’s international education sector has been fraught with multiple, intensifying stressors since early 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only suspended overseas student mobility, disrupted their study, career and immigration, but also aggravated Australia China relations, which may further dim the future of international education in Australia. Australia’s 2020 policy responses have been closely tracked and vigorously discussed amongst Chinese international students and other stakeholders. How have Chinese international students interpreted Australia’s policies during COVID-19? How have these policies impacted their experiences, and perceptions of studying in Australia? This study explores these questions through critical policy analysis, digital ethnography and interviews. Data sets include 1) mapping of Australian policies during the COVID-19 crisis, 2) social media articles, commentaries and discussions regarding studying in Australia, and 3) semi-structured interviews with 30 Chinese international students, parents and intermediary agents. Initial analyses show that Chinese students are mainly interested in three areas of Australia’s policy responses. These include measures to combat COVID-19, policies regarding international education and student wellbeing, and policies regarding Australia-China relations. Interviews will be designed to explore Chinese students’ perceptions and experiences in relation to these policy areas. Data analysis will be conducted using Bacchi’s (2009, 2015) WPR (What the Problem Represented to be) approach to policy study. Specifically, we will use the WPR analytical framework to discuss how Australia’s policy responses represent and shape problems related to international education during COVID-19; what presuppositions underlie such problem representations, and what discursive and subjectification effects these policies have upon Chinese students, parents and intermediary agents. We draw upon policy crisis theories (MacConnell, 2003; Boin et al 2016) to discuss the implications of our findings for international education policies in Australia.

Keywords: international education, Covid-19, policy, Australia, Chinese, international students.

About Authors

Jing Qi

Affiliation/s: RMIT University

Dr Jing Qi is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University. Jing’s interdisciplinary research orientation is broadly concerned with internationalisation of education. She merges her research experience in multilingual, sociological, cultural and technological studies to bring an innovative perspective to education research. Jing publishes in international education, doctoral education, teacher education and blended and mobile learning.

Cheng Ma

Affiliation/s: Shanghai Art and Design Academy

Cheng Ma is a lecturer and media producer at Shanghai Art and Design Academy, China. He has been working in higher education since 2003, designing and delivering courses in the field of media production. He obtained a Master of Media degree at RMIT University, Australia. Cheng’s research focuses on the use of social media in higher also interested in Australia-China relations and cyber nationalism on social media.

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