China Moving Up as Top Destination for International Students

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A recent report by suggests that by 2020, China will overtake the UK’s second position in the world for international study and it will eventually compete with the US for the first place.

The latest statistics revealed that the number of British students seeking degrees at Chinese universities keeps increasing, and according to the experts, the tendency will continue in following years. As researchers from the University of Liverpool suggested, British universities facing changes from the Brexit vote will keep looking East to establish new partnerships.

Nearly 400,000 international students went to China in 2015, writes Rachael Pells of the Independent. It is an increase of more than a double for the past decade, making the country the third most popular destination for international degree seekers ahead of France, Canada, and Germany. Out of these students, the number of UK passport holders looking for degrees or work experience in China has more than tripled for the same time period.

Asked for a comment, the British Council spokesperson in China said:

“The country is investing heavily in education, and it has clearly established itself as a key player on the world’s economic and political stage. Taking these factors into consideration, it is not surprising that China is emerging as an increasingly attractive study destination in parallel with growing awareness among students of the opportunities it offers in terms of gaining education and competitive experience that will be recognized by employers.”

The tendency is partly due to new government initiatives in China, including increased education standards and financial aid opportunities for international students. The number of government scholarship available to overseas degree seekers reached 40,600 in 2015, up from 36,943 the year before, following a constant increase each year. Last year, China granted government financial aid to 40 percent of all international students new to the country, which is a five-fold increase since 2006.

The statistics revealed that in 2006, 48 percent of international students went to Beijing and Shanghai. In 2015, only 18 percent of the overseas degree seekers chose Beijing, and another 14 percent – Shanghai. The remaining 68 percent opted for other locations within the country.

As Natalie Marsh of the Pie News noted, the rankings of the Chinese universities are also increasing, with many higher institutions entering league tables such as THE World University Rankings, the US News and World Report rankings, and more. In the 2016 Shanghai rankings, 54 of the country’s universities entered the top 500, compared with 35 in 2011 — the first time when Chinese higher institutions made the top 100.

The International School Consultancy, an international organization monitoring school trends worldwide, added that more than 150,000 Chinese children are currently studying in international English-language schools in the country such as Haileybury College in Beijing, Japan Times reported. It means that the number of families able to afford the high fees is growing, despite the downturn in the economy.

Once limited mainly to international children, international schools have been legally allowed to open campuses for Chinese students as well. While the government is trying to tighten its ideological control over textbooks and curriculum and to limit the Western influences, the international schools offer new options and teaching methods for the Chinese people who can afford them. International schools offer a smoother transition to universities overseas, with schooling that emphasizes on critical thinking and not memorization.