The research – led by Chinese digital marketing company Sinorbis – suggests that 50,000 Chinese students will apply to undergraduate courses at UK universities by 2030, with around 24,000 eventually going on to study in the country. In 2021, 14,000 Chinese students were accepted into programs in the UK.
The modelling suggests that the entry rate of Chinese students to UK universities by their mid twenties is expected to increase to around one in 700 Chinese youths by 2030, while in 2021 the equivalent rate was around one in 1,200.
One “critical factor” driving growth is the forecast that China’s 18-year-old population expected to rise 5% by 2030 – equal to around 16.5 million people.
“The findings in this report underscore an exciting opportunity for universities in the UK who will welcome an increasing number of international students from China over the next decade,” said Nicolas Chu, CEO of Sinorbis.
The UK is ahead of its US competitor, the report suggested, noting that the country’s “relatively speedy” vaccination rollout is well perceived in China. The UK was also the first country to deploy an approved Covid vaccine and its population has a high vaccination rate.
“A host country’s friendly relationship with China has also become a heavily weighted concern for students. Here also, the US lags behind China,” the research added.
Growth will not be ubiquitous amongst UK institutions, Chu however continued. “Research shows that while some are growing in popularity, others are decreasing,” he said.
In “an increasingly competitive space”, universities must consider what they are doing to counter “new anxieties” that are emerging post Covid, the report warned.
Speaking with The PIE News recently, Sinorbis COO Dandan Cheng suggested that demand for study abroad is “still very strong even with this international politics tension and the impact of Covid”.
“But on the other side, the cost, the international relationship and also the attitude to take good proactive actions towards Covid, as well as how friendly media in China sees the destination country towards Chinese people, all these are taking effect,” she said.
The new report noted that “while there are plenty of qualitative reports that health and safety worries and political tensions are dissuading China students from choosing big four host countries, recent enrolment data shows a far clearer correlation between downturns in visa administration issues and travel restrictions as opposed to spikes in political tension or virus outbreaks”.
“The decision making journey takes a long time, with multiple digital touch points along the way”
The paper posited that a reason that these issues “may be seen to have less immediate impact” is the length of the preparation period for international education plans.
“The decision making journey takes a long time, with multiple digital touch points along the way — from websites to WeChat to Weibo,” Chu stated.
“Reaching students early in the process is critical, and it’s equally important to keep them engaged along the way.”
The new report also urged universities to be “proactive in developing a China communication strategy to counter some of the new risks to sustained recruitment and engagement of Chinese international students”.