Australian universities
Australian universities have been urged not to be too dependent on international students for revenue. Source: Jason Lee/Reuters

Chinese education officials say the number of students studying in China from countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road have increased significantly as a result of the country’s series of preferential policies aimed at this group.

More than 200,000 students from 64 countries along the Belt and Road Initiative studied in China last year, showing a 13.6 percent increase from 2015, according to official statistics released Thursday and reported by China Daily.

The Daily Star in its report quoting the Chinese paper said data showed Pakistan jumped from the ninth-largest source of international students to China to fourth-largest, with 19,000 students in the Asian superpower’s institutions last year.

This “remarkable rise” surpasses the overall growth rate of international students in China, which was at 11.4 percent last year, according to Xu Tao, the ministry’s International Cooperation and Exchange Department director. In 2016, more than 440,000 students from 205 countries and regions were studying in the country.

Tao expects the number of students from this region to increase further next year.

Among the special policies under the Belt and Road Initiative are state-funded scholarships to study in China, as well as federal support to deepen bilateral ties between Chinese provinces with their adjacent, or closely related countries.

The provinces of Fujian and Yunnan, and the Guangxi Zhuang and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions were among those granted such federal help.

Liu Jinghui, secretary-general of the China Scholarship Council, which administers the scholarship, said 49,000 international students from 183 countries and regions received the scholarship last year. Of the total, those from countries along the initiative accounted for 61 percent.

Xu also said China has become the largest destination for students seeking overseas studies in Asia, with the number of international students in China seeking a degree, especially in non-Chinese language subjects, on the rise. Of the popular majors taken by the 210,000 students, about 47 percent of the overall international cohort were medicine, engineering, economics and management.

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