News on international students often focuses on how the People’s Republic of China is the biggest sender of students to countries like the US, UK and Australia. The inverse doesn’t get as much talk time, even though the number of foreigners attending Chinese universities has increased tenfold since 1995.
A study recently published in the Journal of Studies in International Education looks closer into this phenomenon, specifically looking at why these individuals head to Zhongguo.
The most important factor when deciding to study in China is the academic reputation of the region’s institutions, the study has uncovered. Students from elsewhere in Asia (except Japan) were particularly concerned about this, more so than students from Europe, North America and sub-Saharan Africa.
“Findings reveal that the quality reputation of China’s higher education (HE) is the major pulling force of international mobility to China, while the booming economy escalates its HE reputation and has become the driver of China’s emerging regional hub appearance,” the report notes.
The authors – Wen Wen, Associate Professor of Higher Education at China’s Tsinghua University, and Die Hu, a PhD candidate in international education at the University of California, Los Angeles – surveyed and interviewed 30 international students.
Money matters too, according to Wen and Die’s study, with low cost of living and available scholarships found to be successful in drawing students over. Last year, a Ministry of Education report stated that the 2017 budget for ‘overseas students who come to China to study’ was 2.86 billion yuan (around US$420 million). It’s been increased to more than three billion yuan ($469 million) this year to account for the growth in interest among international students choosing China as their study destination, The PIE News reports.
The respondents also mentioned studying in China would give them an edge in their future jobs and optimism about economic cooperation between their home countries and China.
China’s contemporary culture, however, wasn’t found to be a great pulling force, with respondents deeming it vague and ambiguous.