International Students in Higher Education in China

With China's rising national strength and popularity of Chinese in the world, China as a study destination attracts thousands of foreign students abroad and the number of foreign students continues to grow rapidly in recent years. According to 2014 data from Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China, there are more than 377,054 foreign students studies in all the 31 provinces in China, with an increase of 5.77% over the same period last year. In 2015, a record breaking 397,635 international students went to China, solidifying its position as the third most popular destination country for overseas students. While US and the UK attracted nearly one-third of all globally mobile students, their leadership is under threat in the "Third Wave" of political turbulence and intense competition from English-medium Instruction or English-taught Programs in countries like China and Continental Europe.

The largest source of foreign students comes from Asia, accounting almost 60% of the total, followed by Europe 18%, Africa 11% respectively. For individual country, the top three countries of origins are South Korea (62,923), United States (24,203) and Thailand (21,296). Only 10% of foreign students receive Chinese Government Scholarship and the rest 90% are self-funded.

On the other side, more Chinese wealthy families are more likely to send their kids abroad to receive higher education. Free academic atmosphere, high-quality teaching quality and new way to cultivate talents---all these advantages contribute to the flood of Chinese students arriving in United States, United Kingdom, Germany and other developed countries. Chinese students have been the largest foreign group in USA since 2010, with 157,588 arriving between 2010 and 2011. The same situation happened in United Kingdom and Germany. Western education will likely remain the leading choice for Chinese students due to its cross-disciplinary fields and development of critical thinking.

China has a strong demand for postsecondary education, to the extent that its university system currently cannot keep pace with demand. Consequently, universities in the United States, Europe and Australia play a significant role by partnering with Chinese universities, aggressively recruiting Chinese students for study in their host countries, increasing the number of students they send to study in China, and adding to their presence on the mainland, either through official foreign campuses or extensions. Australia, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries are already making strides into this market.

Partnering can be economically salubrious, either if the scholars choose to stay in the host country or return to the mainland. Most Chinese students who go abroad are among the best and brightest from their home country. Thus, if they choose to stay, they can benefit the economy of their host country when they gain employment and become members of their new communities. If they leave, they may maintain the contacts and connections they may have established, and also leave a positive impression on their hosts.