INTO wins PIEoneer award for initiative that brought over 1,500 Chinese students to the UK amid COVID-19

INTO wins PIEoneer award for initiative that brought over 1,500 Chinese students to the UK amid COVID-19

Shanghai Charter Flight 4

The PIE’s 2022 Student Support Award recognizes INTO for a series of charter flights that helped Chinese students arrive in the UK despite travel hurdles in 2021-22

(LONDON): INTO University Partnerships has taken home the 2022 PIEoneer Student Support Award for a charter flight initiative that brought more than 1,500 Chinese students to universities across the UK at the height of the pandemic in September 2021 and January 2022, when direct travel between mainland China and the UK was suspended.

The PIEoneer Awards celebrate innovation and achievement across the global education industry, recognizing individuals and organizations who are redefining the international student experience. Awards were announced at a ceremony held on 9 September in London’s historic Guildhall, marking the sixth year the awards have been run.

Olivia Streatfeild, CEO of INTO University Partnerships, received the award at the event.

“We are delighted to accept the 2022 PIEoneer Award for student support. It was our privilege to help so many Chinese students make it to the UK on time for in-person study last autumn and winter, and to collaborate with universities across the country to ensure they enjoyed the massive benefits that come with having these students present on campus,” Ms. Streatfeild said.

“The award recognises INTO’s value-driven approach to international education that puts students at the heart of everything we do.”

International student checks into flight chartered by INTO at airport in China.

INTO, the world’s leading international education organization, chartered four students-only Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic flights from China to London’s Heathrow airport in September 2021 and one additional students-only flight with Virgin Atlantic from Shanghai Pudong airport to London in January 2022. The flights were chartered as part of a coordinated operation that came to involve more than 30 UK universities, Universities UK, multiple travel agent partners, the British Consulate in Shanghai and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Direct flights between mainland China and the UK remained suspended throughout the 2021-22 academic year, leaving Chinese students who hoped to begin or resume in-person study in the UK with flight options that involved multiple, expensive connections. The INTO-chartered flights offered students a more convenient, affordable route to campus alongside pre-departure meetings and staff support at the airport before take-off and upon arrival.

International student consults INTO team member before boarding charter flight from China to UK.

Each of the five flights sold out within minutes, demonstrating severe need for viable travel options among international students at a time when universities were seeking alternative ways to ensure those students a path to the UK.

“This initiative was developed as a direct response to the uniquely challenging environment that students and their families faced at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the success of the initiative has helped foster a sense of common purpose and collaboration across the UK higher education sector, delivering high-touch, innovative solutions to international students during unprecedented times,” Ms. Streatfeild said.

International student consults INTO staff member before boarding a charter flight from China to the UK.

In 2019-20, more than 550,000 international students were studying in the UK. Over 100,000 came from China alone. Collectively, international students contribute an estimated £26 billion to the UK economy.

Thank you to the colleagues and partners working on the ground in China, without whom this initiative would not have been possible.

Learn more about our charter flights initiative here.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Davinder Kumar (London, United Kingdom)
VP Corporate & Public Relations
INTO University Partnerships
Mobile: +44 (0) 7393802367

JP Deering (Washington, DC, United States)
Corporate Communications Manager
INTO University Partnerships
Mobile: +1 859 351 9611

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