China’s elite and wealthy families have long prized high-quality education for their children, and just about anyone on an English-speaking university campus these days studies alongside Chinese peers. But which countries are the most popular for the heirs of China’s richest and most powerful?

According to this year’s Chinese luxury consumer survey, the United States remains the clear favorite as a tertiary level study destination for China’s wealthiest families. The US was followed in popularity by the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

This was an exciting first for New Zealand, which took fifth place in the ranking by overtaking last year’s other member of the top five, Switzerland. 

“New Zealand breaking into the ‘Big Five’ shows how far it has come to building a global education programme, attracting many of China’s most successful families to send their children to study there,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, the founder, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report, the organization that publishes the survey.

“New Zealand’s all-round education system is able to compete at the very highest levels in the world,” he added.

However, though US universities remain the goal for many Chinese families, the results change when it comes to high school. China’s richest, the survey found, prefer the UK for their children’s high school education.

“The UK enjoys a huge advantage with its schools, particularly its boarding schools, attracting many of China’s most successful families to send their children to study there. There has been a clear evolution of Chinese wanting to send their children to the UK and US, whereas a decade ago it was Canada and Australia,” said Hoogewerf.

The chairman noted that 80 percent of wealthy families in China now intend to send their children overseas, making the choice of foreign study destination an increasingly vital and influential decision. The average age for millionaires to send their children abroad for study is 16, while the average for billionaires is 18.

Nearly 275,000 Chinese students enrolled in US universities in the 2013-14 academic year, representing 31 percent of international students in the US, and a 75 percent increase over just three years. China also accounts for the largest percentage of international students at UK universities, representing about 20 percent of the total foreign student body, according to the most recent data.

The Luxury Brands in China Report, now in its 11th year, is administered and published by upscale publishing and events group Hurun Report. The Hurun Report is the largest survey of China’s rich consumers and also includes data on preferred luxury brands, banking and investment opportunities. It compiles lists of China’s wealthiest families and analyzes their spending, travel and investment habits as well as the national and global trends that affect them. 

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