Pursuing your Education in China


In 2009, more than 240,000 students from over 180 countries came to China to study for both degree and non-degree programs. Here are five reasons to join them.

1. Travel highlights comparable to Europe and the U.S.

Studying in China is an excellent opportunity to explore the world's most populous country. You will experience China's unique blend of ancient and modern civilization, as well as its scenic beauty and bustling nightlife. Visit new places with other students from around the world that you'll meet, and you'll find yourself opening your eyes not just to China, but to the whole world.

The sheer size of China’s territory means a tremendous variety of climates, cultures and landscapes await. Head northeast to Harbin to enjoy the ice festival, hit the ski slopes or just to see the water in your eyes form icicles around your eyelashes. If -25°C sounds a little too cold, then head south to the tropical beach paradise of Hainan Island and kick back in the sunshine.

Following rapid economic development over the last 30 years, Chinese cities now boast eye-catching works of modern architecture - from the towering skyscrapers of Shanghai to Beijing’s Olympic Bird’s Nest - in addition to impressive ancient structures like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. China’s 5000 years of history has bequeathed a seemingly endless amount of tourist attractions to visit, while natural wonders of breathtaking beauty are also scattered about the country. Perhaps less well known, but equally unmissable for international students, is China’s unique nightlife made up of private karaoke rooms and extravagant mega-clubs.

Getting around in China is convenient and inexpensive thanks to a well-developed and modern transportation infrastructure. All cities are well-served by buses and taxis, and larger cities have modern subway systems. For long-distance travel, every city can be reached by airplane or train. China's high-speed railway reaches a maximum speed of over 300 km/h and provides beds as well as dining services.

2. It's Relatively Affordable

Studying and living in China is cheaper than studying and living in European countries, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and many other countries.

For example, for non-EU citizens the tuition fee for studying at a UK university is at least 7000 pounds (about S$12,500) annually. The cost of living can even reach up to 13,000 pounds. Meanwhile, the United States and Australia have the world's most expensive tuition fees.

Even in other parts of Asia studying is not cheap. Japan boasts high living expenses soaring up to S$2,500 a month, while South Korea is one of the world's five most expensive countries for foreign residents.

On the other hand, in China, the tuition fees per semester are generally no more than S$1,400, a number of short-term language courses cost just a few hundred dollars. Food and consumption in China are as affordable as it gets. A good pair of jeans sells for S$10-20 , the bus fare only 15 cents, and a subway ticket in Beijing only 30 cents. All in all, everything is more than affordable in China; it's cheap!

3. Promising Career Prospects

When it comes to economics, China has been the world's fastest growing country for the past 30 years. Even during the financial crisis, China's economic growth has maintained a level of 8%, a pace unthinkable in other countries. China's GDP recently surpassed Japan's to become the world's second largest economy after the United States. The world's top 500 companies all do business in China, with many choosing to base their Asia-Pacific headquarters in the bustling Chinese cities of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

The current rise of China has made it very clear that people who can speak Chinese and have firsthand experience of living in China are going to have a great advantage in terms of employment. China serves as a huge market for multinational corporations, and employers are well aware that a real understanding of China, Chinese culture and Chinese people is a big plus for those who want to become the world's next generation of leaders.

4. Good Quality Education

China is striving to build more world-class universities, and investing heavily in higher education. Aside from China's unique Chinese language, calligraphy, martial arts and other cultural subjects, Chinese degree programs in majors such as engineering, science, medicine, economics and trade, MBA as well as finance are highly revered. As for those who don't know any Chinese, many universities offer degree programs taught in English, so you can earn your degree while learning the most widely spoken language in the world.

The academic qualifications awarded by Chinese universities are recognised by most developed countries. The Chinese government has signed an agreement on mutual recognition of academic qualifications with a number of countries including the United States, Britain, France, Japan and 65 other countries and regions.

5. Cultural Immersion

Though it may surprise many, Chinese culture and people are extremely diverse and multicultural, consisting of 56 different ethnicities. For example, in Lijiang, in the southern province of Yunnan, twelve different minorities have dwelled together in social harmony for thousands of years, practicing an array of religions spanning from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam, to many lesser known ones like Tibetan Buddhism and Bimo Religion of Baiyi.

Contrast that to completely different Inner Mongolia, where drinking Chinese rice wine is practically mandatory when entering the homes of locals, and whole lambs are eaten in one meal.

You'll run into unique customs as you travel to different parts of China, but everyday life, believe it or not, will be just as new and fulfilling. Living and interacting with local Chinese and immersing yourself in Chinese society will provide you with a new way of visualising the world and giving you the kind of insight that just doesn't come from textbooks.

Well, for starters, China is a massive, rapidly-changing and hugely diverse country. What life in China is like depends on where you are and how you choose to live your life. But one thing is for sure, there's never been a more exciting time to live in this dynamic and vibrant country.

Vibrant Economy

Over the past 30 years, China has had the world's fastest growing economy. Even during the financial crisis, China's economic growth was maintained at a level of 8%, a pace unmatched by any other nation. China's economy recently surpassed Japan's to become the world's second largest after the United States. Multinational companies have flooded the booming Chinese market and many of the world's top 500 companies choose to base their Asia-Pacific headquarters in the bustling Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing or Hong Kong.

However, China's per capita GDP level is relatively low and regional development has been uneven. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and other coastal areas in the east and south-east enjoy living standards similar to those in mid-sized European countries. Meanwhile, the level of development in Yunnan, Xinjiang, Tibet and other central and western provinces remain relatively low, especially in rural areas. However, recent initiatives to bring the living standards of China's inland regions on par with those in coastal cities have been successful. Xi'an, Chongqing, Wuhan and Chengdu are all thriving examples of China's so-called second-tier cities, where living costs are low but standards are comfortable.

Regardless of which city you end up studying in, you'll find that China's rapid but uneven economic growth means that you have the choice to eat at a street stall for less than a dollar, indulge in fine dining at a world-class restaurant or simply stick with the familiarity of a worldwide chain like McDonald's. Life in China is extremely affordable if you come from a developed nation, but you won't have to forgo the comforts of home.

Rich in Culture from long endearing History

Go to any historical monument in China and it's clear from the throngs of domestic tourists that the Chinese are both proud of and fascinated by their nation's lengthy history. As China moves forward and becomes an increasingly prominent player on the world stage, there has been a revival of interest in the country's roots, especially in the finest moments of Chinese civilization: Confucian philosophy, the Four Great Inventions, the flourishing Tang dynasty – to name just a few.

But to what extent does modern China bear the imprint of its 5000 year-old civilization? Perhaps fittingly for an ancient civilization turned modern superpower, the answer is somewhat contradictory. Beijing, for example, is dotted with splendid examples of traditional Chinese architecture and the modern city has been built around its still-existent Yuan-era layout. However, traces of the city's ancient past are increasingly hard to come by, except in tourist spots and certain well-preserved parts of the city. But this only makes it all the more pleasant when you do find yourself wandering the old alleyways of Beijing's traditional hutongs in the heart of the city, where the pace of life seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of the present day.

Meanwhile, some things never change. In keeping with Confucian teaching, Chinese culture still places huge importance on education. This has been intensified by the government's drive to modernize China, and huge investments have been made in the nation's higher education system to ensure Chinese graduates have the knowledge, skills and innovation to lead China into the twenty-first century.

The Most Populous Country

1.4 billion might sound like an intimidating number, but people in China are no different from anywhere else in the world; they share the same hopes and confront the same problems. College graduates face fierce competition for jobs. Young couples work hard to save up for an apartment. Parents want the best education for their kids. Many people struggle just to make ends meet. Others will spend voraciously on brand name goods simply to keep up appearances.

So is it easy for a foreigner to fit in amongst 1.3 billion people? When you first arrive, you might well come across locals who find it too frustrating to communicate with a foreigner who speaks little or no Chinese, so you'll need plenty of patience. Others will bowl you over with their kindness, go incredibly far out of their way to help you with the smallest problem you might encounter, and invite you to their hometown to celebrate Chinese New Year.


Not everybody appreciates a diverse learning environment. But the new age student who is future-ready will want to be exposed to a diverse range of people, places, cultures and ethics.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for foreign visitors to China is the country's incredible diversity. As the third largest nation in the world, China occupies a vast expense of territory, making it home to tremendous regional diversity in terms of everything from terrain and weather to culture, language and food. The Chinese population is itself made up of 56 ethnic groups each with their own customs and traditions. All this makes China a wonderful country to travel and explore.

Cost of Living

In Beijing, China's most expensive city, you can live fairly comfortably off of US$15 a day. Renting an apartment costs around US$250-350 a month and a meal at your local noodle joint won't set you back more than a couple of dollars.

If you're on a tight budget, you'll find that the salary from a part-time teaching job can go a long way in China. Also, unless you have your heart set on living in Beijing or Shanghai, don't overlook China's lesser-known cities where you may only have to pay US$150 a month for a room on campus.


Private car ownership in China is a relatively recent phenomenon. This means it's extremely easy to get around in China without a car. China has one of the world's most well-developed railway systems, making it both convenient and affordable to travel around this vast and fascinating country. Urban public transport systems are also efficient, modern, and, in most cities, vastly superior to those in Western metropolises. The only downside is, with so many people, it's not always easy to get a seat!

Cost of Transportation in Major Cities

Beijng Shanghai
Subway About 30 cents About 40-120 cents
About 40-120 cents
Bus 10-20 cents About 30 cents
About 20-40 cents
Taxi About 30 cents per km About 40 cents per km
About 40 cents per km
Chinese Language

Mandarin, or Putonghua, is the official language of China, and is spoken throughout the country. Most Chinese people also speak the local dialect of their hometown. Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, but this doesn't mean that you won't learn to speak “proper” Chinese if you study in another part of the county. Your Chinese teacher will certainly speak standard Mandarin (a prerequisite for teaching foreign students) and Beijing locals speak with just as strong an accent as the locals anywhere else.

You may have heard that Chinese is one of the world's most difficult languages to learn, and indeed, many foreigners struggle with pronunciation and writing characters. However, Chinese grammar is largely straightforward and logical. For example, verbs do not conjugate and tenses can be expressed simply by saying what time an action occurred. If you come to China with no or minimal language skills, you might actually be surprised how quickly you can pick up basic phrases.

If you can't speak any Chinese, is it difficult to get around in China? It is certainly possible to live in China without speaking Chinese, but it can be a struggle and you will need plenty of patience. Many young people especially college students speak English to a reasonable level as English is taught from primary and middle school onwards.

It is advisable to carry a list of commonly used Chinese expressions for the first few weeks of your stay in China to get you started.

Food and Culinary

You might be surprised to find that the local food in China is rather different from the Chinese food in your home country. This is partly because recipes are adapted to suit local tastes, but also because Chinese cuisine differs from region to region. Many Chinese restaurants outside China serve Cantonese fare, which emphasizes light and balanced flavors. Food in the north of China tends to be heavier, and locals favor wheat-based staples like noodles, bread and dumplings over rice. Meanwhile, the central provinces of Sichuan and Hunan and famed for their spicy dishes, while the cuisine of the predominantly Muslim province of Xinjiang is halal. Regardless of where you choose to study in China, regional cuisines from across the country can be found in any Chinese city.

International food is also widely available; the bigger the city, the wider the variety. Japanese and Korean restaurants are particularly popular in China, as are Western fast food chains like KFC and McDonald’s. Vegetarianism is not widely practiced in China but Buddhist restaurants do exist and you can always find meat-free options on a Chinese menu.

Living Expenses

Eating out in China is very affordable. A meal at the university canteen, a small local restaurant or a fast food chain typically costs between 5-25RMB (roughly US$1-4). Mid-range dining options (25-45 RMB, US$4-7) include both Chinese and international cuisine.

Daily necessities in China are very affordable. All universities have convenience stores inside or nearby , where you can buy your basic necessities.

Usually, a good pair of jeans costs around 20 dollars, while a suit may cost 30 dollars. A pair of socks costs 50 cents, a book bag costs 3 dollars, 5 dollars for a T shirt. .You can buy all the things you need at a very cheap price. Even a new 32-inch LCD TV costs less than 500 US dollars.

Accommodation Options

Most Chinese universities provide very good and comfortable dormitories especially for international students. The dormitories usually have private bathrooms for every room, TV, Internet access, washing machine, refrigerators and even a small kitchen.

You can also choose to rent an apartment from a variety of available housing located outside the university.

More than 2,000 years ago, scholars from East Asia and the Arabic States visited to China to learn. From the 19th century, China began to build modern universities. After the founding of The People's Republic of China in 1949, the number of universities in the country ballooned. In the 1950s, Chinese universities started accepting students from Vietnam and Eastern European countries.

Today, around 600 of China's nearly 3000 universities accept students from around the world. As China's economy continues to develop, studying in China has become increasingly popular. In 2009, there were about 240,000 international students studying in China. Some pursue their degrees there, while others attend short-term programs to study Chinese language and culture.

Quality of University Education

China's higher education system boasts a strong reputation worldwide, while China's manufacturing industries are renowned for their international competitiveness. Chinese university graduates are welcomed by leading universities in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and other countries. Every year, there are about 20 thousand students who graduated in China who go to the aforementioned countries for further study. Many overseas Chinese graduates work in Silicon Valley, Wall Street, famous universities and world-class laboratories.

As of April 2009, the Chinese government has signed mutual recognition agreements with 64 countries and regions.

China's higher education system is mainly influenced by the United States and Russia. This influence is reflected in:

Type of Institutions

Research universities, Comprehensive universities, Colleges for professional training, Higher vocational education.

Naming of Institutions

the name of the university is usually related to the name of the city or its geographic location. In addition, due to a strong Soviet influence at the time of their founding, many universities reflect their areas of expertise in their titles, for instance, University of Aeronautics, University of Geosciences, Ocean University, Jiaotong (Transportation) University, Posts and Telecommunications University.

Development of Higher Education

Today, almost all Chinese universities are comprehensive universities. Despite the advantages of their own disciplines, universities offer subjects which go far beyond the name of the covered area of expertise, and it is therefore still possible to study other subjects at universities, such as International Business at Beijing Foreign Studies University, Marketing at China University of Petroleum - Beijing, or Accounting at Beijing Language and Culture University.


Universities in China are usually public universities, and only public universities can award degrees. Therefore, foreign students needn’t worry about the qualification they would receive from a Chinese university. Aside from being under the Ministry of Education, other universities are under the provincial authority.

5 years ago, there were many universities (especially medical universities) that were under the management of certain ministries of the Chinese central government, but they have now all been incorporated under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, or merged into other comprehensive universities.

Popular Specialisations

Aside from Chinese language, traditional Chinese medicine, martial arts, history, philosophy, sports, and Chinese folk arts (music, dance, painting, etc.), subjects such as mathematics, engineering, science and medicine, in addition to economics, finance, trade,business and management are all highly regarded.

Chinese and Mandarin are not essential pre-requisites to studying in China, though conversational proficiency will be helpful when international students are adjusting to the environments and provides the grounding for a significantly richer immersion.

Some of China's universities accept applicants with very diverse education backgrounds for their Chinese language courses. Language schools in China's major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen teach foreign students the Chinese language and culture. These schools generally do not have educational level or age restrictions. However students under the age of 18 years old will need to submit a letter of consent from your guardian. Many undergraduate and postgraduate programs are taught in English in China's universities. They are commonly available for the following types of programs:

  • MBBS
  • Business programs
  • Engineering programs
  • Computer science and technology
For applications to such programs (or otherwise, conducted in English), if your native language is English, or you had been instructed in English in your education for at least three years preceding your application, you will not be required to provide an English proficiency certificate. Otherwise, the English proficiency certificate (such as IELTS or TOEFL) is to be furnished.