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Record numbers studying in China, according to new MoE figures

The number of international students choosing to study in China has continued to grow, with the country attracting a record 489,200 students in 2017 and maintaining its position as Asia’s most popular study destination according to Beijing’s Ministry of Education.

China is well known as a sending nation, but increasingly students are choosing it as a destination too. Photo: Flickr/ Roman Boed

EMI courses made China especially attractive to South Asian and African students

The latest inbound figures, which were released shortly after the MoE revealed a record number of Chinese students chose an overseas education during in 2017, show China maintaining double digit percentage growth.

According to the statistics, degree level study represented almost half of all students, from 15% from the previous year, while graduate and postgraduate studies saw the biggest percentage shift, growing 18.5% to reach 75,800.

“China’s trying to play a bigger role on the world’s stage as it becomes more developed”

China’s increasing popularity was due to several factors, including competitively priced programs, a significant push from the Chinese government and the improving standing of universities, said the British Council’s China-based senior analyst Kevin Prest.

“Chinese universities are becoming more attractive,” he said, “you can see it by looking at the international rankings or if you’re looking at their research outputs, I think Chinese universities are definitely getting better over time.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Prest said the improved performance of Chinese universities, coupled with significantly cheaper degrees – degrees range from around £1,000-£5,000 a year – meant students saw significant value for money,

Of the 2014 countries from which students came, ‘Belt and Road’ countries – named after China’s 2016 One Belt One Road Initiative to improve ties with regional partners – represented the largest proportion of students.

While the region represented 64.9% of students, Prest said the strong showing had less to do with direct economic gain – in 2016 it introduced a scholarship program to both send students abroad and entice students in – and was more aligned with China’s aim to increase their influence.

“This is something, especially in the last couple of years, its something that’s really been promoted by the Chinese government,” he said.

“I think Chinese universities are definitely getting better over time”

“The ‘Belt and Road’ project, there’s a big trade element to it, there’s an infrastructure element to it but another kind of part of that is to improve cultural and educational connections between China and nearby countries.”

So far, the focus on scholarships appears to be working, with 12% or of 58,600 students coming to China under some form of scholarship.

“I think it’s part of China’s general international policy, they’re trying to play a bigger role on the world’s stage as China becomes a more developed country,” Prest said.

While improved standings and government-backed scholarships are helping student growth, Prest added that an increasing number of English Medium of Instruction degrees was also a major influence for students.

With a large number of medical students, this made China especially attractive to South Asian and African students, Prest argued.

According to the MoE, liberal arts degrees accounted for almost half of all students, while engineering, management, science, art and horticulture saw significant gains.

China remains the world’s largest source of international students, however, with the fast improvements being made, more students are staying put, according to The PIE‘s latest analysis.

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