Some universities in the United States are canceling their study programs in China and banning travel to the country because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The travel restrictions also make it hard to plan for conferences and other university events that researchers from China might attend.
“That door has been…closed for the immediate future,” said Michael Schoenfeld. He is vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, in the state of North Carolina.
U.S. government officials recently recommended that Americans avoid trips to China. Shortly after, many universities announced limits on travel to the country. This includes Duke University. The school has a partnership with Wuhan University, which is at the center of the outbreak.The Duke Kunshan University has shut down until February 24.
Two of the 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States are linked to college campuses. One case was confirmed at Arizona State University. The second was at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. That university says the infected student had recently traveled to Wuhan.
The viral outbreak may harm academic ties between the U.S. and China, said Brad Farnsworth. He is a vice president at the American Council on Education. He noted that the 2002 to 2003 SARS outbreak did not really lead to such problems.
“The whole higher education relationship was not nearly as complex as it is now,” Farnsworth said. “We have many, many more students going in both directions.”
The longer the crisis lasts, the deeper the damage will be, he added.
China sent more than 369,000 students to the United States during the 2018-2019 school year, more than any other country. The U.S. usually sends more than 11,000 students to China each year.
The higher education relationship between the two countries was already being affected by ongoing trade tensions, visa difficulties and U.S. concerns about security risks of visiting Chinese students.
“This is a low point in U.S.-China higher education relations, there’s no question,” Farnsworth said.
Most Chinese students studying in the U.S. were already taking classes when the virus outbreak started. But worries about the illness have led many American schools to cancel plans to send their students to China for the winter term.
At the University of Arkansas, China is a popular study-abroad country for business students. About 60 students there had their trips canceled.
The university made the decision one week ago. It has been working to find study programs in other parts of the world for affected students, said Sarah Malloy. She is the university’s director of study abroad and international exchange.
One Arkansas business student, Lancaster Richmond, had been planning to travel to Beijing and Shanghai. Now, she is planning to visit Chile this summer instead.
“I was obviously disappointed, but I also understand the university is doing whatever they can in our best interest,” she said. “It made my parents a little more comfortable as well."
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words In This Story
academic - adj. pertaining to the study of a subject
campus – n. the area around a university or school
outbreak – n. the growth of infected people