In recent years, ‘studying abroad’ has become the primary choice of more and more Chinese students.
Among the many popular countries, studying in the UK is becoming increasingly popular in China. From underage students to PhDs, a steady stream of Chinese fly to the UK every year to embark on this valuable educational experience of their lives.
According to Higher Education Student Statistic: UK (HESA), the total number of international students at UK universities has exceeded 550,000 in the 2019 – 2020 academic year, reaching 556,625, up 12 percent year-on-year.
Of these, the number of Chinese students in the UK has exceeded 140,000, an increase of 56 percent in five years.
According to another HESA release, 10 years ago there were only 43,530 Chinese students studying at universities across the UK. However, 10 years later, the total number of Chinese students has more than doubled to 106,530, including 60,460 postgraduates and 46,070 undergraduates.
The data counts between 1 August 2019 and 31 July 2020, including both the first five months of the new crown during the UK epidemic, showing that the number of Chinese students rose rather than fell during the epidemic.
Why more and more Chinese students are choosing to study abroad？
In recent decades, China has experienced rapid economic development.
The increasingly open social environment is constantly changing people’s perceptions. As there are great differences between China and Western countries in many areas such as ideology, cultural background, political system and education methods, more and more Chinese people want to go out and experience the education and culture of different countries.
In addition, the number of applicants for master’s degrees in China has shown a year-on-year increase. According to data from the Ministry of Education in China, the number of applicants for the 2021 exam is as high as 4.22 million, an increase of 1.3 million compared to last year. The overly competitive entrance exams have forced many students to consider other options.
Also, the economic recession triggered by global emergencies-epidemics has exacerbated the reality of employment pressure, and the competition for talent is calling for higher-level professional talents, especially as the general trend of society’s future development demands higher qualifications for those who are employed.
Why is the UK increasingly becoming the top choice for Chinese students among many competitive countries?
Firstly, UK’s education system that attracts Chinese students.
What we have to admit is that the UK’s free public schools are the envy of other countries. The UK also has the most prestigious public schools in the world – Eton College and Harrow College.
Also, the UK is also home to 18 of the top 100 universities in the QS World University Rankings for 2020. Many of these universities are very attractive to Chinese students.
Secondly, what attracts Chinese students is the academic structure and curriculum of the UK.
The introduction of the ‘accelerated degree’ – a shorter period of time, but with the same content, number of weeks of teaching and quality of degree – has undoubtedly increased the UK’s competitiveness among international students. Achieving a socially acceptable qualification in less time not only enriches a student’s CV, but also saves time.
When it comes to course offerings, UCAS data shows that there are over 37,000 undergraduate courses at UK universities. If you’re interested in a common subject, such as mathematics, you can study just mathematics, or you can take peripheral courses such as computational and applied mathematics, applied statistics, etc. If you want to be unique and study something different, you could choose Baking Technology Management at London South Bank University, or Viking Studies at UCL.
According to HESA’s list of full-time UK university admissions by subject, you can see that business and management courses attract the largest number of students. The top five most popular programmes are Business and Management, Social Sciences, Medical Related Professions , Creative Arts and Design , and Engineering and Technology.
Thirdly, external environmental factors have also led to a change in the tendency to study in China.
Prior to this, the UK’s main competitor in terms of study abroad was the US. However, since 2018, the US has become less overwhelmingly dominant due to various political and economic instabilities.
Relations between the US and China have been on a rollercoaster ride in recent years. There was even a complete ban on Chinese students studying STEM postgraduate studies in the US in 2020, with significant restrictions on student visas, which has left Chinese students and parents concerned about studying in the US.
Ms Ye: Studying in the UK is a story I will never forget.
Ms Ye chose to study for a PhD in the UK after graduating from her Master’s degree in China.
In line with her previous research, she studied Environmental Design at University College London. Asked why she chose to pursue her PhD in the UK, she said,
“I got my master’s degree from Peking University in China, and as a top-tier university in China, the university would provide us with many opportunities to study abroad.”
“Before my PhD, I hadn’t left China. The biggest idea at the time was to go out and see what the outside world was like and what the top-tier schools in the world were like. I just happened to apply for a publicly funded PhD opportunity from the state and made up my mind to go to the UK.”
Today, Ms Ye has been a PhD graduate for several years. After graduating, she moved to Australia to work as a teacher at a university.
Looking back on her past study abroad experience, she says she still misses it from time to time. It was that experience of studying in the UK that gave her more planning for her life and the courage to explore more parts of the world.
The inner wanderings of Chinese studentsinthe UK
However, many people have doubts and hang-ups about studying in the UK.
There are the general environmental factors – the COVID-19. On the one hand, various UK universities have offered more opportunities and facilities to study during the epidemic, such as allowing students to attend remotely, lowering English requirements and extending the application period, which makes Chinese students very tempted.
On the other hand, the online classes due to the epidemic will more or less affect the quality of the classes and the experience of studying abroad. The inability to attend offline classes and activities while tuition fees remain the same can also put the quality of study abroad at a premium to some extent. But the virus hasn’t gone away and the situation hasn’t exactly improved, and there are concerns about the safety of studying abroad itself.
So, whether to take online classes at home or go to school in the UK; whether to study normally as originally planned, or to defer for a year. These are all questions that plague Chinese students.
In addition, the timing of graduation from study abroad does not precisely coincide with the recruitment season at home. Many international students face additional employment problems after graduation.
Liu Zhishan, a student who graduated last year, studied for a master’s degree in education at UCL. After graduating, she returned to China to look for a job, but this didn’t seem to go very well.
“Before studying abroad, I had been offered a good job opportunity – civil service – but I wanted to broaden my horizons and enrich my CV with a prestigious degree on the side, so I passed on that opportunity. But after graduating I missed the previous recruitment and had to wait six months, which meant I could only submit to better workplaces this year, which was a bit of a disappointment.”