China says on track to meet target of half million foreign students by 2020
Students revise their lessons in the Jiujiang University library. Source: Shutterstock

The number of international students enrolling to study in Asian powerhouse China continues to rise, bringing the number of students last year to 442,773, an 11 percent increase, according to new state statistics.

The Education Ministry’s data puts China on track to bring in their target of half a million students from abroad by 2020.

Asia dominates as the source continent for the rising number of students last year – accounting for 60 percent of the overall number, followed by 18 percent from Europe and 11 percent from Africa.

At the country-level, South Korea had the highest number of students, with a total of 70,540 students, making up about 15 percent of all foreign enrolments. The United States follows at second place (5.4 percent, 23,838 students) and Thailand at third (5.2 percent, 23,044 students).

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky pose for a selfie with students at Fudan University in Shanghai. Image via Reuters/Stringer.

“A series of preferential policies drafted by the Chinese government for students from these countries have contributed to the remarkable rise in their numbers,” the ministry’s department of international cooperation and exchange director Xu Tao told The PIE News.

One of them was the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) five-year joint effort with nearby countries along the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road, where the Chinese government will fund Chinese students to study abroad as well as these countries’ students to study in China.

Last year, a significant portion of the 207,000 students who came to China were due to OBOR.

Overall, the number of international students continued to rise rapidly over the last five years – with an increase of 11.4 percent from 2015 and 35 percent since 2012.

Growth of Sino-foreign universities is one factor propping up the numbers, as students favour China’s safe cities, relatively relaxed post-study work regulations as well as low living and tuition costs.

Tao calls such universities, like the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), shining examples in recruiting “outstanding international students” with as many as 1,940 international students from over 70 countries.

“… Interest in experience in China continues to grow across all countries,” UNNC executive director of Global Student Experience Jennifer Weinman said.

She said more countries around the globe are showing interest in China – from Asia-Pacific nations to those from the Nordic and African nation – bolstering China’s five-year plan for its international education sector.

“By 2020, it is necessary to significantly improve the quality of study abroad, significantly enhance the effectiveness of foreign education abroad, effectively expand the breadth and depth of multilateral education cooperation,” Xu Tao said.

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