Queen's University charters jet to bring Chinese students direct to Belfast
QUEEN'S University has chartered a jumbo jet at a cost of around £600,000 to bring hundreds of students directly from China to Belfast in September, the Irish News can reveal.
It comes amid fears that a drastic loss of income from its international student intake would leave a hole in its budget running into millions of pounds.
And the university has also laid out how it will deal with the socially distancing and quarantine measures it will impose on those it brings in from a country where the coronavirus outbreak first occurred last year.
The number of Chinese/Hong Kong students at Queen's has grown by around a third in the last five years and currently stands at more than 1,000.
It is easily Queens' biggest market for foreign students, making up 47 per cent of its overseas intake, ahead of South East Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia) at 18 per cent, the Americas at 12 per cent, South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) at 11 per cent and the Middle East/Africa (10 per cent)
In some instances tuition fees are 10 times that of an under-graduate from Northern Ireland (working towards five years towards a medical degree would cost a Belfast student £4,395 a year, but for an international student that rises to £41,850, or nearly £210,000 over the full term of the course).
Queen’s has had links with China since the 1850s and has been developing strategic partnerships with the region for decades, including one with Shenzhen University.
In the past decade it has invested more than £10 million in China-related research in areas such as sustainable energy, information technology, food security and cancer research.
A spokesman for Queen's University told the Irish News: “We appreciate that international travel may be difficult over the coming weeks and months, so the university has arranged a chartered flight from Beijing to Belfast exclusively for students.
“Passengers will be required to provide evidence of a recent negative Covid-19 test and must also not be displaying symptoms at the time of travel.
“The students will be transported directly to campus from the airport and provided with quarantine accommodation if these measures are still in place.
“The flight will be charged to students at the normal cost of a comparable commercial flight.”
Queen's said it is putting in place a range of measures to ensure the safety of students on campus for the forthcoming academic year.
The spokesman added: “The flight has been arranged for students from China in the first instance as the country or region with the greatest demand, but additional flights may be arranged from other regions in the future, depending on demand.”
It costs £16,000 an hour to charter a 450-seater Boeing 747, and the flight time between Belfast and Beijing is around 14 hours each way.
Adding on another 10 hours loading and unloading time at either end, in crude terms the bill for that single flight could be £600,000 for Queen's.