To support staff and students affected by COVID-19, we have created this web page for those working or studying remotely in mainland China while travel restrictions are in place. For more general help and support, please see the Accessing ICT resources remotely web pages. If you need to raise a query with the service desk and you are working from China, please make this clear when you contact us so we can give you the correct guidance.  

The situation in China is changing constantly and many services are dependent on a user’s specific set up (device, network connection, software etc.) Unfortunately, the below information is not a guarantee that this software will work for you. 

What apps and websites are blocked in China?

Many applications and websites are blocked in mainland China, including those for productivity, social media, streaming, news, VOIP and search. Without using a VPN you will generally be unable to send or receive voice messages, videos, images or any other types of files via a blocked application. Please read further for our guidance around VPN usage in China. 

According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 10,000 websites blocked under China's internet censorship policy. Some of the key sites are:

  • Google services – Maps, Gmail and Docs
  • YouTube
  • Facebook, including Messenger
  • Wikipedia
  • Personal OneDrive
  • BBC
  • New York Times
  • Guardian
  • Bloomberg
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Reuters
  • CNN
  • Time

See the full list on Wikipedia, which is subject to frequent change.

What websites are available in China?

Access to some websites are restricted from China and this can vary between regions.  The below websites can show the likely availability of services but doesn't guarantee that they will work or you may need to use a VPN to access them. 

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

The use of VPNs isn’t specifically banned in China. Staff and students are advised to consider what they are trying to access and whether a VPN is required. 

Issues associated with VPNs include:

  1. VPNs require specific software to be installed and then configured. This process can be difficult across a range of devices, particular on non-college-owned systems. 
  2. VPNs are often blocked, intentionally or accidentally, by networks. This can prevent the use of a VPN - and VPN-dependent services - entirely. 
  3. VPNs may be rate-limited and therefore suffer from an unreliable or poor performing connection. This is common on residential broadband connections, where many ISPs limit VPNs entirely. 
  4. When connected to a VPN traffic may be channelled through a route you are not aware of, as they are not application-specific. Examples include BBC iPlayer or Netflix, or other traffic which is legitimate at home, but not permitted. This has been problematic in the past, as ICT has to address these violations of the AUP, even though the user did not intend this. 

ICT advises against the installation and use of a third-party VPN in China.  Members of Imperial should check local laws and guidance before attempting to connect to the College VPN. Further information is available here: How to Use VPN in China Without Breaking the Law. 

Software and services available in China

Web browsers

We advise using Firefox when working from China. Google Chrome is not supported in China.

Office 365

The full Office 365 software package including Outlook, Teams, OneDrive for Business and the office applications will work as normal in China but you may experience slow uploads to your OneDrive. Find out more about Office 365 by visiting our web pages.

Blackboard, Panopto and Turnitin

You should be able to access your course materials and submit assignments as normal whilst studying in China.

While we have had reports of loading times being slower than expected, these times can vary due to the extra load currently impacting on global network congestion and your local network provider. Some Departments are making lectures available to download in Panopto. If this option is available to you, you will see the download podcast option in the Panopto web viewer. For more Panopto guidance, visit our student guide to Panopto web pages