Jun 28, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Chinese graduate students planning to study aviation, robotics or advancement manufacturing in the US may now have less time to do so thanks to new restrictions recently announced by the Department of State. Here’s a closer look at what to expect and why it matters, according to a report from Science.

Shorter Stays Ahead

Under the new policy, the duration of study for many Chinese graduate students will be cut from five years to one year. Additionally, it may be harder for Chinese students to attend conferences, collaborate internationally, and to visit home.

The reason for the restrictions, according to policymakers? Boosting national security. This move is in line with the “extreme vetting” called for by the Trump administration, including scouring the social media activity of visa applicants.

In response to questions of whether the new visa policy targets Chinese students, supporters say it's necessary given the massive number of Chinese international students in the US as well as the country’s Communist party leadership. “The second largest source is India, but clearly, it does not have an authoritarian government and it is an open society,” said Senator John Comyn (R--TX).

Furthermore, said Comyn, most academics are “focused on attracting good students and just doing their research” and as a result “don’t prioritize national security concerns.”

“Uncertainties and  Confusion”

Not all are on board with the policy change, however. University officials say it will present one more barrier to entry for Chinese talent. Said  Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, graduate dean of a Chicago university, “For decades, doing their graduate work in the US was a no-brainer. But now, they have to decide if they really want to come here,” he told Science.

“We might need to tell those students, if you come here, you’d better be prepared for the possibility that you won’t be going home, and you won’t be attending international conferences to present data and network. It’s not that you have to finish your program in one year. But it puts them at a competitive disadvantage against students from the US, or the European Union, or elsewhere in Asia.”

The impact isn’t limited to their academic opportunities, but also to their hopes for employment. “Students have become much more savvy about their career prospects. And once the word gets around, some of them might decide it makes more sense to go somewhere else,” Chodzko-Zajko continued.

Meanwhile, China is doing some tightening of its own, including introducting compulsory coursework in certain studies for international students. 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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