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Overseas study not just for China’s privileged, study finds

Nearly two-thirds of Chinese parents interested in sending their children abroad to study are in middle or senior management positions or are the heads of companies, a survey has found.

Head office of Vision Overseas in Beijing, China. Photo: The PIE News.

Half of the returning students said it took them five years to recoup the costs of studying abroad through work

A white paper produced by Vision Overseas, one of China’s largest outbound study agents and a subsidiary of education company New Oriental, surveyed more than 3,700 parents and students, with students making up 80% of respondents.

It found that 42% of parents interested in sending their children overseas for study are middle or senior managers, while 20% are the heads of companies, enterprises or organisations.

However, a quarter of those interested in having their children study abroad described themselves as “ordinary company workers”, which Vision Overseas vice-president, Yu Zhongqiu, said demonstrates that “studying abroad is no longer a privilege of students from rich families”.

“Regardless of which field or sector they are working in, sending children to study abroad has become a consensus among the parents”

“Regardless of which field or sector they are working in, sending children to study abroad has become a consensus among the parents,” the paper states, noting that parents work in a broad cross-section of industries in both the public and private sectors.

“Thanks to the ongoing strength of the domestic economy and demand among middle-class families for an alternative to the fiercely competitive National University Entrance Examination (gaokao) system, the number of school-age Chinese students going overseas is continuing to grow,” commented Liu Xiaoxiao, education services manager and Kevin Prest, senior analyst at the British Council.

Insights into the career prospects and attitudes of students revealed that the majority of those yet to study abroad intend to return home to work. Just 15% said they were interested in working overseas long-term.

However, over half – 53% – of the students who had already gone abroad said they found it difficult to re-integrate into the domestic environment.

Students reported often being disappointed with the salary they receive upon finding employment in China.

The majority of returning students started entry-level jobs (58%), while 27% went straight into mid-level positions.

The average starting salary for returning students was 83,000 yuan (US$13,400). However, this increased to 130,000 (US$21,000) in the second year, which demonstrates that studying abroad is a sound financial investment, the white paper argues.

Looking at return on investment, half of the returning students said it took them five years to recoup the costs of studying abroad through work. A further 11% said it took them four years and 18% three years.

Students’ primary motivation for studying overseas was to enhance their international perspective, the survey found. And students, not their parents, were more likely to consider how studying abroad might improve their future employment prospects and language skills.

Students reported often being disappointed with the salary they receive upon finding employment in China

When deciding on a study destination, safety was the biggest concern for parents and students. However, these concerns varied according to the destinations they were interested in.

For example, 55% of those considering the US as a study abroad destination were concerned about safety, compared with 59% overall.

Similarly, price perception varied from one destination to the next. Fifty five per cent of those considering New Zealand and 51% of those considering Australia were concerned about the cost of study abroad – notably higher than the 41% average – suggesting that these countries are considered more cost-effective study destinations.

Of those returning students, the UK was the most popular study destination, followed by the US, Australia, South Korea, France and Japan.

The study reasons that the UK is a popular option for study abroad because it enables students to do a one-year Master’s course, making it a small time investment.

Meanwhile, Canada and Australia are more popular among those intending to emigrate, due to their more generous post-study work rights, it states.

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