According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 485,645 international students were educated in the UK in 2018-19. A total of 342,620 were from outside the European Union, with 35 percent of higher education students coming from Chinaļ¼a rise of 53 percent on 2011-12.

Compared with students from the UK, their overseas counterparts face higher tuition bills. According to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute in 2018, Chinese students comprised the largest group of first-year non-EU students at UK higher educational institutions in the 2015-16 academic year.

Financial reasons

Experts said UK universities are also arranging charter flights for financial reasons to bring students to the country.

Spriggs said: “As a percentage of revenue, Chinese students represent a huge chunk of income for universities. It makes sense for them to protect that as much as possible.

“The risk of not doing so means the students go elsewhere and a university cannot make up that revenue loss. It is also about branding, being the most accessible, the most approachable and being ‘open for business’ to the Chinese market.”

Despite the pandemic, UK universities are recruiting record numbers of international students. According to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the number of undergraduate students accepted from outside the EU has risen by 9 percent to a record 44,300.

This marked a significant change from earlier this year, when fears surfaced that international students might postpone or cancel their studies in the UK this autumn due to fears about the outbreak.

According to observers, while Chinese families are concerned about safety, they are also pragmatic, as they see the benefits of proceeding with long-term plans.

Chen Qianyu, from Chengdu, Sichuan province, is one of the many Chinese students determined to push ahead with their studies in the UK to realize their dreams.

The 20-year-old, who was on the charter flight from Chongqing to Manchester, will read actuarial mathematics as a junior year student at the University of Liverpool in northwest England. The program allowed her to complete her first two years of studies in China.

Chen said that although all her classes have been switched to remote learning this semester, she still thinks it would be better to be on campus.