How Chinese Students Choose a Foreign University to Attend

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 12:14

Due to the increase in the average income level of Chinese citizens, more and more Chinese people can now afford to study abroad. And with the proliferation of the Internet in China, Chinese students are now able to gain a much deeper understanding of the differences between Chinese and Western education. More and more have chosen to attend high-level educational institutions in the West in order to attain an education that they see as being more comprehensive and systematic. Chinese parents also hope to see their children gain a better education and experience the world.

In the past, Chinese students that went to study abroad were usually sponsored by the state or their employer. The country would arrange the study abroad program as well as pay for study, living and travel expenses. But over the past 10 years, the market has gradually changed to one in which students pay their own way. They now choose their program and school themselves. They now have a wide range of choices available to them.

According to a report published by the Chinese Ministry of Education, 340,000 Chinese students studied abroad in 2011. Of those, 13,000 were sent by the government, 12,000 by employers and 315,000 paid their own way. Since 1998, the number of Chinese students abroad has increased almost 20 times. China now sends more students abroad than any other country. If the current trend holds, there will be 410,000 Chinese study abroad students in 2012 and 490,000 in 2013.

So, which countries are the most popular with Chinese students? According to data provided by the embassies of other countries, USA is the top choice. The UK, Australia and Canada are also quite popular.

Countries that Chinese students study abroad at.

The huge Chinese study-abroad market is surely very attractive for foreign education institutions, driving them to invest more in marketing to the Chinese market. Besides advertising online, they also attend exhibitions, create partnerships with Chinese schools and establish branches in China. But what is it that really attracts Chinese students? What are the top factors that students consider when choosing a school to study at?

Factors that Chinese students consider when choosing a school to study abroad at.

1) School quality – One of the primary reasons Chinese students study abroad is to get a better quality of education than they can get at home, so the quality of the school is undoubtedly their top concern. At the most basic, the school must be legally registered in its country and have the proper assets such as school buildings and qualified teachers. The school should have solid program offerings and strengths in some areas of study. The degrees issued must be recognized abroad and in China.

2) Culture - Besides being an opportunity to study, going abroad also gives students a chance to experience another culture. Students are interested in learning about the history, society, affairs and daily life of the countries they would like to study in. They’ll gain a thorough understanding of several countries in order to decide which is the best fit for them.

3) Family and friends – For most Chinese students, if they already have friends or family in a certain country, they’re more likely to want to study there. Having friends or family in a location makes it a lot easier for them to adapt to life there. Plus, they can leverage the experience of their friends and family to gain a better understanding of what it’s really like in the country and school there before they arrive, decreasing their risk.

4) Language – English is the most popular language. For one thing, English is taught in Chinese schools, so they don’t have to start with a totally new language. Plus, it’s easier for them to apply for a visa, especially if they already have an adequate English score on the IELTS or TOEFL test.

5) Cost - Since income has been rising in China, and students have the financial support of their families, cost has decreased in significance as a factor for school selection. However, besides tuition fees, students will also consider the cost of living and scholarships in order to understand the total cost of studying abroad.

6) Policy - To study abroad, students need a visa. I recommend that schools adopt a system for evaluating students in order to filter out any that might not have the proper motivations. However, if the process is too complex or harsh, it can have a major negative impact on the number of student applications, including applications from suitable candidates. Immigration policies are also an important factor. Some students that study abroad will want to continue to study in the same country after their program ends or may even want to apply for permanent residence. If they can’t stay after their studies, this can be a major downside for their long-term plans.

The educational choices available to Chinese students are ever growing, as is the information available to them. With educational agents, the Internet, and supervision by Chinese government agencies, the age of blindly choosing an education is gone for good.

If you want to have a place in the Chinese study abroad market, it’s key to gain a good understanding of China and Chinese students, and adapt appropriately.

This post was written by Danny Xu. Danny works at Nanjing Marketing Group as a dedicated business development manager for Western schools in the Chinese market.



Very interesting article . I know some Chinese friends choosing to study in France and they told me the first reason they came in this country was the discovering of the culture ( and to discover that France was not a so romatic country..) and the quality of the education. I agree with you regarding the immigration policy that this latter is now more and more considered by the Chinese students ( visa, permanent residence,etc).

What about education in Russia? I have many friends in China who have studied in Russia and is now working for Russian companies

Universities are finding effective ways to increase Chinese recruitment...

First, it should be noted that many schools establish programs, services or extra-curricular activities that the Chinese student market will appreciate (from catering to the Chinese taste in food to Chinese sports and extra-curricular activities).

They will also highlight their institutions most attractive resources in any new marketing (a note of caution - attractive to the Chinese market is often quite different from what is attractive in the US/Western market). To work within a budget or to simply get more material these schools will have their existing advertising, multimedia, online brochures etc. translated into Chinese (simplified Chinese for Mainland China) and will make beneficial adaptations so as to appeal specifically to their Chinese market.

Another key for increasing Chinese recruitment for US schools is by establishing an effective communication avenue via a Chinese-language website with an online application and a simple form for the student to request more information. Of course, to "close the deal" they also allocate the necessary personnel (possibly in China) to assist interested ones in the decision-making and application processes.

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