More students are choosing New Zealand and China over the US, UK and Australia. Here’s why.

live in china
China's fast-growing economy makes it an attractive destination for students. Source: Hector RETAMAL / AFP

Gone are the days when the international education market solely rested in the hands of the US, UK and Australia. With rising fees, a high cost of living and elevated xenophobia, many international students are turning away from traditional destinations. 

Instead, they’re choosing to pursue their studies and live in China or New Zealand — both on a temporary and permanent basis. 

Both countries have caught the world’s attention for various reasons. As one of the fastest-rising economies, China is seen as an attractive job hub for everyone. The IMF expects that it will expand by 5.2% and hence contribute to a third of global growth this year. 

Many of the world’s biggest tech companies reside in China as well, such as Xiaomi and ByteDance. Expats and international students are flocking to live in China to capitalise on this booming growth. 

New Zealand, on the other hand, is seen as a haven of a study and working destination by many. Recently ranked as the 10th happiest country in the world, New Zealand has been lauded for its standard of living, social support and quality of education. 

On the other hand, there’s been a trend of international students moving away from US universities. Unfriendly policies against foreigners and fears of discrimination are deterring applications to the UK and Australia, as well. 

This, coupled with a shift away from traditional metrics such as university rankings, is making students turn away from destinations that were once the central hub of higher education. We take a closer look at this phenomenon. 

China is an emerging destination for international students. Source: Peter PARKS / AFP

Why study and live in China?

To study and live in China is to be at the front and centre of progress and innovation. The country is a leader in services, manufacturing and agriculture, driving forth much of the world’s exports in this arena. 

More than that, the country is actively seeking out foreigners to fill roles in key industries. Companies are already creating more attractive packages in the hopes of gaining more expat staff. Expat families are choosing to live in China for similar reasons — from its fast-developing economy to low crime rates, making it ideal for raising children. 

Perhaps the most appealing reason students want to live in China, however, is the prospect of learning Mandarin. As the second most spoken language in the world, many students and expats alike are vying to pick up Mandarin to widen their job opportunities not only in China, but in other corners of the globe, too. 

It doesn’t hurt that the country is slowly climbing up the ladder to become a leader in higher education. Top universities include Tsinghua University and Peking University, both of which place among the best 40 institutions worldwide. 

Advances in education — from introducing digital technologies to widen opportunities in traditional classrooms to attracting foreign education giants to establish their presence there — are making it all the more exciting as a study destination. 

International students are noticing and choosing China as a result. It shows that, despite isolating policies like China’s zero-COVID move, forward-thinking students will choose countries that promise them opportunities for their futures. 

New Zealand is an outdoor adventurer’s haven. Source: Tim Grundtner/Pexels

Studying in New Zealand: More than just the backdrop of Middle Earth

New Zealand is similarly revered for its progressive approach to just about everything. Led for the most part by Jacinda Ardern, the female prime minister was a clear example of how empathetic, compassionate leadership could be advantageous in pushing a country forward. 

This has led to a society that values equality over freedom, leading to a more secular, accepting community. In fact, New Zealand is among the most diverse countries globally — a shining beacon for multiculturalism in an ever-divided world. 

For international students with different backgrounds, skin colours and ethnicities, such a society is indeed an exciting prospect. The country’s particular approach to education is just another benefit to add to this list. 

“We have developed a unique approach to education that moves beyond personal academic achievement, and focuses on longer-term outcomes such as developing life skills and cultural competence to prepare our students to become global citizens,” Ben Burrows, Regional Director for Asia of Education New Zealand, was quoted saying

Then there’s its stunning natural beauty — from picturesque fields to being the home of the universally-beloved Hobbits from “The Lord of the Rings” series. Exploring the depths of these is just as encouraged, made easier by the fact that New Zealand is the second safest country in the world

A three-year post-study work visa is the cherry on top. Students need only have pursued a programme full-time for at least 30 weeks to qualify, opening them up to a multitude of jobs right on their doorstep.

It shows that students nowadays are looking for flexibility and opportunity over a highly-rated education — something that has been on an upward trend for years.

If countries like the US, UK and Australia continue to close their doors to foreigners, students will begin to look elsewhere — and China and New Zealand seem to take up the top spots.