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Nine out of 10 Chinese students would recommend the UK – UCAS

A landmark report from UCAS has found nine out of 10 Chinese students in the UK would recommend the country, among other findings. 

Reputation is the key driver for Chinese students to pick the UK, the report said. Photo: Pexels

The most popular degrees studied are beginning to see a marked shift

Some 92% of respondents also believed that their expectations of course quality have been met (65%) or exceeded (27%), according to the report, Global Insights: What are the experiences of Chinese students in the UK?

The report was put together by UCAS, in a partnership with Pearson, surveying those who had applied through the UCAS system. 

The most popular degrees studied are beginning to see a marked shift. Business was top of the table for over a decade. However, since 2013, it has declined by 43%, making up 26% of undergraduate acceptances this year. 

The emerging players, in turn, seem to be the creative arts and design – some 4% of acceptances were in such subjects in 2013. 10 years later, it’s 11%. 

Director of international recruitment at UCLan, executive at BUILA and chair of the China regional interest group, Ula Tang-Plowman, said the report marked a “significant shift” in Chinese students’ academic interests. 

“Understanding these changes is crucial for us in the higher education sector, especially in light of the challenges and transformations we’ve witnessed post-pandemic,” Tang-Plowman said.

“The UK has a flourishing creative arts sector with world-leading TV and film, fashion, design and music industries so it’s encouraging to see growing numbers of Chinese students motivated to study in the UK due to the value of our vibrant arts and culture,” said UCAS’ interim chief executive, Sander Kristel. 

A fair few of the most well-known creative arts colleges lie in London. Overall, the report noted that more than a third of Chineses undergraduates are placed at universities or colleges in the capital. 

Less than 1% of the group are placed in Northern Ireland, 1% in Wales and 2% in the East of England, highlighting a sorely London-centric landscape for Chinese students. 

“The sector must collectively work together to remain competitive in this global market but do so in a manner that promotes sustainability and diversity, with a balanced distribution of Chinese students,” Kristel pointed out. 

Encouragingly, not only were nine out of 10 students satisfied with their experience in the UK, but almost three in four undergraduates are also considering postgraduate study. 

That consideration may well be coming due to a separate finding – that most commonly, reputation is the key driver for Chinese students to pick the UK, with 62% of respondents listing it. 

Some 60% listed quality of education, while just under half (46%) also listed cultural experiences as a reason for choosing the UK. 

Chinese students, the report said, are also mostly comfortable using the English language whilst studying and living in the UK – some 69% of students also formally learn while they’re studying. 

More than 90% of Chinese students, it added, have an English qualification.

“This helps students settle quickly, build connections and friends in their local communities and make the most of their time [there].

“Proficiency in the English language is an essential component of a positive student experience [there],” noted president of Pearson’s English Language Learning division Gio Giovannelli. 

At the beginning of the funnel, it is clear from the data that wealth is a big factor in Chinese students’ decisions.

The top five sending cities to the UK of applicants are Shanghai (13%), Beijing (10%, Shenzhen (5%) Guangzhou (4%) and Nanjing (3%). All but Nanjing are seen as the country’s most developed and wealthy cities. 

“Some provinces and municipalities hold greater potential than others for growth”

From a financial standpoint, the report said that 57% of applicants come from the top 10 GDP per-capita regions. 

“Some provinces and municipalities hold greater potential than others for growth – such as Guangdong, which is not only the most populous province but has been a long-time hub of interest in the UK,” said BOSSA’s secretary general, Chenxing Sang. 

While overall, UCAS end of cycle data showed a decline in undergraduate level applications from China – for the first time since 2014 – China remains a positive market and the UK’s competitiveness for Chinese students is stable, the report indicates. 

“We see the UK being the top destination for Chinese students for the foreseeable future,” Sang declared. 

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