Study in China

Study in China

Investment in higher education in China has been huge in recent years, making it an appealing choice to students looking to study abroad. The number of higher education institutions in China has doubled in the last decade, and there are now almost 3,000 institutions.

China, determined for its universities to be deemed world-class, launched project 211 in 1995, to focus on bringing 100 of its universities to the forefront of higher education. Through an additional project, a league referred to as ‘C9’ was created specifically for institutions regarded to offer an elite education.

This investment and modernisation of university education in China has seen it become a more popular choice for international students looking to study abroad.

Why Study in China

There are 6 Chinese universities ranked within the top 100 on the QS World University Rankings 2021. Overall, 40 Chinese institutions received a ranking. There are currently close to 500,000 international students studying at Chinese universities, with most international students hailing from Japan, the US, Thailand, South Korea and India.

The number of international students has increased thanks to the government’s new improved scholarship scheme, which saw nearly 60,000 students from abroad receive financial assistance in 2017.

In addition, the government is committed to improving the number and range of degrees in English that are available. This has already increased by 63% in the last five years.

China Education Vs US Education

Studying in China will provide a different experience from studying in a western country.

First to consider is the approach to teaching and learning. It is well known that eastern culture prefers a ‘rote’ method of teaching, with a focus on students’ memorisation of facts. This approach is reflected in Chinese higher education through the fact that 95% of assessment in undergraduate degree programs is through exam testing.

In comparison,  testing in US universities only equates to 50-60% of assessment, as it also includes projects, papers and presentations in the assessment of students’ overall abilities.

As well as differences in education systems, there are also many differences in the culture of China in comparison to the US. Squat toilets will still be found throughout China and hand soap and tissue are not standard features in public restrooms.

As a highly populated country, the major cities in China are packed with people – all the time – and at times this can be overwhelming. However, once you adjust to this, you will be able to appreciate the dynamic culture you can experience.

If you would like a more western experience, head to Hong Kong. As a former British colony, it offers a home-away-from-home for British students.

Top Chinese Universities

Recent developments in China have put the country at the forefront of urbanisation. There are currently 20 major cities, hosting over three million inhabitants.

If you enjoy bustling cities that offer a wealth of options and opportunities, studying in Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong could be the right choice for you. Other popular cities with the international student community include Chengdu, Kunming and Tianjin.

There are a number of top institutions located across China. Some of the top universities are:

Tsinghua University: Located in Beijing. In the QS World University Rankings 2021, it was placed 17th in the world. Member of the Chinese C9 league. There are around 46,000 students at the university, almost 3,000 of whom are international. Top subjects include: engineering, architecture and materials science.

Peking University: Located in Beijing. A prestigious university also in the C9 League. High numbers of international students are enrolled each year. Ranked 30th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2021. Renowned for its traditional Chinese architecture on campus. Top  subjects include: linguistics, dentistry, chemistry and materials sciences.

Fudan University: Located in Shanghai. Classed as China’s third best university and ranked 44th in the world. Included in the elite C9 league. Fudan is renowned as a highly selective school and currently, around 32,000 students attend the university. Top subjects include: politics, business, modern languages, chemistry and materials sciences.

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University: If you wish to earn two degrees for your undergraduate study, then a degree at this university could be for you. Located in Suzhou, this university is a partnership between Xi’an Jiaotong University and the University of Liverpool in the UK. More than 13,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students currently attend the university, hailing from 50 countries around the world. All programmes of study are taught in English and focus on developing the critical thinking and independent learning of students. There are 90 degrees currently on offer at the university with top subjects including: business, finance, engineering, science and urban planning.

Other Chinese universities of note:

  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai)
  • Tongji University (Shanghai)
  • Northwest University (Xi’an)
  • Shandong University (Shandong)
  • Xiamen University (Xiamen)
  • Beijing Institute of Technology (Beijing)

There are also a number of UK institutions with campuses in China at which you could choose to study.

Popular Courses in China

There are many options for study available to foreign students looking to study in China. Some of the most popular undergraduate and postgraduate courses are currently:

  • Computer Science
  • General Engineering
  • International Business
  • Economics
  • Languages

International Students
Language Requirements

The most common language in China is, of course, Mandarin. The number one language in the world spoken by the most people, it certainly would make you attractive to future employers if you used your time studying in China to master this language.

There are many intensive language courses on offer if you decide to challenge yourself to learn the host language.

However, if learning languages is not such an appealing option to you, China still offers a good experience for English only speakers.

The number of courses taught in English are increasing across the country and many locals will speak English – if you choose to study in one of the major cities.

If you choose an English-speaking course in China, you may need to submit evidence of your proficiency through IELTS or TOEFL.

If you choose a Mandarin-speaking course in China, you will need to provide proof that your language ability is at a level suitable for studying a degree course. The university will likely ask you to take the HSK (the Chinese proficiency test), and the level that will need to be achieved will depend on your university and course of choice. There is no need to travel to China for this course – there are many test centres all around the world.

Fees for International Students

Tuition fees in China will depend on the university and the subject that you have chosen. Public universities will offer a more affordable option, with tuition fees ranging from $3,300 – $10,000 per year. For an English-speaking degree, fees are between $2,200 – $4,500 per year. Medicine, engineering and business degrees are a more expensive option, and tuition fees could set you back anywhere from $24,000 – $50,000 per academic year.

Private universities can be both Chinese or for UK and US universities with a campus in China. Fees for these institutions can range from $8,000 – $15,000 per year.

There are some Chinese universities that are known for offering more affordable study options. These include:

  • University of Science and Technology of China: approx. $4,350 per year
  • Samara National Research University: approx $1,800 per year
  • Nanjing University of Technology: approx $4,000 per year

At some of the top ranking universities, the fees will be much higher. Peking University, for example, charges an average of $17,000 per academic year.


With its target to encourage 500,000 international students to study in China by 2020, the government set up a program to further entice foreign students through the offer of scholarships.

International students are eligible to apply for the Chinese government award Program. The grant is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate students for study at 243 Chinese universities. The scholarship covers all living expenses and student fees.

Part-time Work and Making Money in China

Generally, international students are not permitted to work while in China. This said, however, part-time jobs have been known to be permitted at times. Some students choose to teach English.

This helps them to earn some additional income while also meeting and interacting with local people. If you are considering taking up part-time work while in China, seek guidance from your university regarding the steps needed to gain government permission for this – it is not worth risking the conditions of your study visa by working without permission!

Living Costs in China

With its fast-growing economy, the price of living in China is also rising, but it is still a very affordable option for international students. Rural areas will offer a much cheaper cost of living than the major cities. However, while Shanghai is known to be a particularly expensive city, the prices there are still half of that of New York!

Accommodation for students will cost somewhere between $200-$300 per month, depending on the location.

Transport in China is very cheap, and there are many affordable options for public transportation, which will set you back only a small amount of change for each trip.

Applying for University in China

Similar to the UK, there is a centralised system used for application to university in China. CUCAS (China’s University and College Admission System) is a website through which all applications can be submitted.

There is also an online portal called CUAC (China University Application centre) through which applications can be made. This service also offers guidance to students for choosing the right university and course. Alternatively, students can also apply directly to the university, if they so wish.

It is important to note that China has age limits for applicants to degree courses. Students must be under 30 to apply for a bachelor’s degree and under 40 to apply for a postgraduate course.

Student Visa

Foreign students are required to obtain a visa in order to commence study. Here are a few stipulations for obtaining the visa:

  • You must have already been offered a place at university and have a confirmation letter to submit as evidence
  • If you will be studying in China for over 6 months, you will need the X1 (study) visa.
  • If you will be studying in China for less than 6 months, you can apply for the X2 visa.
  • Along with your visa application form, submit your passport, acceptance letter and a recent photograph.

On arrival in China, a residence permit will need to be obtained within 30 days. For this, visit your local police station or a public security office.

It is also important to organise health cover while studying in China. This can either be organised in your home country or you can purchase a health insurance card on your arrival in China.

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