Your Guide to Studying in China as a Foreigner
So, you want to study in China as an International Student?
But why should you study in China as an international student?
The world is becoming more and more globalized day by day, and studying in China would help you get acquainted with the world.
After all, China is a world leader in most things, education included. You can come to China to get your education and also to experience a culture you likely haven’t been a part of before.
Besides, studying in China would expose you to the world’s best collection of Chinese food.
Do you really need any more convincing? Let’s take a deeper look and give you some useful hints and tips.
Study in China as an international student — Useful Tips & Things to Avoid
Study in China as an international student — FAQs
Types of Programs
To start off, there are a number of ways to get your Bachelor’s degree in China.
As an international student, it’ll likely be through an English-taught program.
A lot of Chinese universities offer international or English-taught degrees. For example, these universities (and more!) all have well-established international undergraduate programs:
- Peking University (北京大学), Beijing
- Tsinghua University (清华大学), Beijing
- Fudan University (复旦大学), Shanghai
- Shanghai Jiao Tong University (上海交通大学), Shanghai
- Zhejiang University (浙江大学), Hangzhou
Foreign universities in China are affiliated with their respective international universities.
Unlike the Chinese universities previously mentioned, these are some universities that generally attract a relatively larger international population as they are foreign schools:
- New York University Shanghai (上海纽约大学), Shanghai
- Duke Kunshan University (昆山杜克大学), Suzhou
- University of Nottingham Ningbo China (宁波诺丁汉大学), Ningbo
Also, since you are an international student, you do not have to take the gaokao (高考), the entrance exam for most (if not all) undergraduate colleges in China for Chinese students.
Skip to Eligibility if you would like to know more about prerequisites and required materials for applying as an international student.
Factors to Consider
Going abroad for your undergraduate education is a big deal, though, so there are a few factors you need to consider.
- Language: obviously, China speaks Chinese. Though many universities offer English-taught degrees open to international students, knowing a minimal level of Mandarin would help you out greatly. Even so, cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen are very globalized. Not knowing Mandarin isn’t that big of an issue; you’ll get around just fine. Still, consider it makes your life infinitely easier, and generally better, knowing the langauge. Also ask yourself, are you open to living somewhere with a foreign culture?
- Qualifications: some universities require prospective students to take an entrance exam, but many do not. It really depends on where you want to go. Though some well-known universities require students to take an entrance exam (similar to Oxbridge), many also do not. Policies differ by university.
- Equivalent international qualifications: more on this will be said later in Eligibility.
Choosing a College as an International Student
Similarly to how the U.K. has their Russell Group and how the U.S. has their Ivy League, China has its C9 League (九校联盟) and Project 985 (985工程).
Made up of nine and 39 universities respectively, these groups receive a considerable percentage of China’s higher education funding.
More importantly, you should consider many of the same factors when choosing a college in China as you would back home.
- Does your university offer your major or degree of choice?
- Do you like your university’s culture—for example, is your school known for its competitive culture?
- Does your university’s values align with yours?
- What opportunities would your university offer you?
- How is the cost of attendance?
- International students tend to attend universities in more urban areas—how important is location to you, especially one with an urban setting?
- How well would your university prepare you for your career?
In order to apply, you need to have a valid high school or secondary school diploma.
On account of your university, there may be other prerequisites you must meet.
Common ones may include:
- Standards of education differ among countries. For that reason, it’s important to have other qualifications equivalent to Chinese qualifications as an international student. Specifically, this may includesA-Level scores, IB scores, AP scores, SAT scores, ACT scores, or other nationally accredited exams. Be sure to check out each university’s policies as they differ amongst schools. Additionally, some universities have minimum score requirements.
- Provided that you are not a native English speaker, you may have to take the TOEFL or IELTS; these tests measure the English proficiency of non-native speakers. However, attending an English-speaking high school or secondary school may waive this requirement.
- Certain universities require some level of proficiency of Mandarin Chinese. Generally, this can be demonstrated through the Chinese Proficiency Test, the HSK (汉语水平考试).
- Lastly, some universities require proof of ability of pay. Many require students to have medical insurance; at Peking University and Tsinghua University, medical insurance is 800 CNY per year (about 115 USD, 100 Euros, or 90 Pounds).
Check out our free HSK tests 👉 get an idea of what HSK level you are right now.
How to Apply for University in China
Most Chinese universities offer their own individual applicant portal, which can be easily found through their websites.
Tips for Writing Your Application
In addition to your personal statement, your grades matter a lot.
They determine if you would fit in your university.
After that, your extracurriculars matter as well. Have you participated in any clubs, events, sports, jobs, or anything similar outside of school?
If so, you should consider including that in your application. Awards, certificates, or similar recognitions would be an added bonus.
Generally speaking, tuition costs for an undergraduate education in China—international students included—are far cheaper than those of America.
This is about 3,705 USD, 3,285 Euros, or 2,960 Pounds.
While different programs have different costs (STEM programs are often more costly than humanities programs), university is usually quite affordable in China.
However, this depends on whether or not you attend a Chinese university or a foreign university (tuition for NYU Shanghai, for instance, was approximately 52,200 USD for 2020).
Of course, this hasn’t factored in the cost of living in China.
Depending on where you attend school, expenses vary greatly—the cost of living Shanghai and Beijing, for instance, is comparatively higher than Qingdao.
Nonetheless, living in Tier 1 cities in China as a student is relatively affordable.
In fact, Peking University estimates an average cost of living of 55,000 CNY per year for its international students (including accommodation, meals, transportation, and other miscellaneous costs), which is approximately 7,850 USD, 6,965 Euros, or 6,240 Pounds.
Bear in mind this does not factor in international travel fees.
Chinese scholarships for international students can basically be split into three types: government funded, city or province funded, and university funded.
Eligibility and deadline requirements for different scholarships may vary, so be sure to check for that information.
Certain countries also have certain scholarships available to them, so you should also check with your country’s Chinese embassy to see whether you have additional scholarships available to you.
Furthermore, the availability of scholarships from your home country for a university in China is likely to depend on your scholarship provider.
Deadlines for Universities
Overall, deadlines differ by college. Although some have a limited window of time to apply (usually around November to December), others have multiple rounds of applications that end a few months before the start date.
For this reason, be sure to check in with each university’s website individually to make sure you know them.
Notification dates will usually be on their website as well.
Many universities in China offer dual degree programs.
Check with your university, but this may mean that you have the opportunity to earn two degrees from your chosen university or that you can do so at different locations, often international.
Study in China as an International Student — Useful Tips & Things to Avoid
In general, you should apply early for university!
Not only does this mean you can know of your admission status sooner, it also means that you can rest knowing you have somewhere to go or if you need to continue applying.
Furthermore, the universities you apply to know that they are a good school—don’t go out of your way to flatter.
In any case, there’s a fine line between expressing why you love a particular program a university offers and blatantly kissing up (拍马屁).
Study in China as an International Student — FAQs
Can I go to university in China even if I don’t speak Chinese?
Yes! While not all universities may allow you to (some universities require some degree of proficiency), many allow international students to attend, given that they meet the English requirement. Knowing Mandarin wouldn’t hurt, though.
Do I need to take the 高考 gaokao?
As an international student, no. However, you will likely need to submit other academic qualifications.
When should I apply by?
Ideally, as early as possible. Check with your university to see their deadlines; some are as early as December whilst others may be in July.
What do I need in order to apply?
High school or secondary school diploma, personal statement, international academic qualifications, etc. Some universities require TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are not a native English speaker, and some require some level of Chinese proficiency depending on the program.
Is it expensive to study and live in China?
Relatively speaking, no. If you study at a Chinese university like Peking University, tuition for a humanities degree in 2020 was around 3,705 USD or 3,285 Euros. Their estimated cost of living as a student was 7,850 USD and 6,965 Euros.
This may be higher if you study at a foreign university such as NYU Shanghai or Duke Kunshan.
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