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China - General information
region Eastern Asia
Capital Beijing
Language Chinese, Simplified Chinese
Currency Yuan Renminbi
Population 1,351,000,000
Students 20,000,000
Foreigner students 0.4%
Statistics - Universities
Universities in top 100 4
Universities in top 200 7
Universities in top 500 27
Universities in top 1000 43
Universities in top 5000 715
Cost of living in China
Expenses - USD/Month Min. Med.
Accommodation 168 340
Food 146 240
Transportation 18 44
Communications and utilities 31 37
Clothing 24 89
Sports and leisure 23 76
Total 410 827
Accommodation in China USD/Month
Shared room outside of centre 169
Shared room in city centre 343
1 bedroom apartment outside of centre 277
1 bedroom apartment in city centre 493
Location on map

Briefly about education in China

  • Education in China is developing at a fast pace, just like the country's economy as a whole. Local universities are world leaders in the number of scientific publications. The country's best educational institutions are already ahead of many American Ivy League universities in the rankings: Tsinghua University and Peking University are ranked 15th and 23rd in the QS ranking, respectively.
  • Price. The cost of studying in China for a foreigner will be 3,000-5,000 USD per year on average. There are also expensive programs, for example, an MBA at Tsinghua University will cost 50,000 USD.
  • Requirements. You can enroll in a Chinese university for a bachelor's degree after 11-12 years of school. It is better to have a GPA of at least 3.0 (on a scale of 4). Individual achievements in studies, creativity, and sports will be an additional advantage.
  • Language. About 30% of programs are conducted in English. For admission, you need IELTS 6.0. A more promising option for further employment is studying in Chinese. In this case, you need an HSK level 4-6 certificate, depending on the program.
  • Preparatory programs. Many universities offer Chinese courses. Here you can prepare for the HSK exam in a year and then enroll in a bachelor's program in Chinese. The cost of language courses is from 2,500-5,000 USD.
  • Scholarships. One of the most affordable ways to study in China for free is to get a grant from the Government of China. China is very generous in providing grants to excellent students entering bachelor's and master's programs, and even language courses. But scholarships from the universities themselves are more difficult to obtain — they are issued only for outstanding academic success.
  • Visa. For studies, you will need a long-term student visa X1. Proof of funds is not required.
  • Work while studying. From 2020, international students in China can work part-time. To do this, you need to obtain permission from the university.
  • Employment in China on a work visa is possible after graduating from the master’s program. Excellent academic performance and a contract from an employer are required.

List and ranking of universities in China

Information is exploratory. For accurate information, refer to the official website of the school.
TitleCityBachelorMaster
491Tsinghua UniversityBeijing4,368 USD5,678 USD
552Peking UniversityBeijing4,659 USD5,241 USD
793Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghai3,610 USD3,610 USD
1004Fudan UniversityShanghai3,348 USD3,348 USD
1045Zhejiang UniversityHangzhou4,338 USD4,338 USD
1266University of Science and Technology of ChinaHefei3,785 USD3,785 USD
1587Nanjing UniversityNanjing2,766 USD2,766 USD
2138Beijing Normal UniversityBeijing5,000 USD5,000 USD
2249Sun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhou3,348 USD3,348 USD
24310Harbin Institute of TechnologyHarbin2,912 USD4,076 USD
  1. Popular language. Even if a student does not find his calling during his studies in China, in 4 years he will be able to obtain a high level of Chinese mastery. This complex language is in demand in many professional fields. China has established trade relations with such major markets as Russia and the United States. There are also branches of world-famous companies in the country, where specialists with high Chinese proficiency are needed. Therefore, a graduate of a local university will not be left with no work.
  2. Many options for scholarships. The Chinese government and the universities themselves offer a large number of scholarships and grants at all levels of higher education. Each country has its own quota. To receive full funding, you need at least B2 proficiency inChinese, a high GPA, and individual achievements. However, there are practically no scholarships for English-language programs.
  3. Living conditions. Most universities provide international students with inexpensive or even free hostels on campus or within the walking distance of it. At the same time, much more comfortable conditions are created for visitors than for local students.
  4. Competitive environment. Entering the university is perhaps the most important moment in the life of a young Chinese. Competition among the citizens for a place at top universities can reach 200-300 people per place. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine how charged for success the environment at a Chinese university will be. Here, it is difficult to forget about your studies, since you can literally feel the motivation in the air.
  5. Chinese culture. Studying in China will give you a lot of impressions since it is an extremely diverse country that emerged in a place of an ancient civilization. Its territory is home to 56 ethnic groups. Each one has its own customs and national cuisine. Over the course of several years, foreign students have a unique opportunity to learn more about the cultural characteristics of each region, immersing in the variety of local flavors.
  1. Difficult language. Chinese is considered to be one of the hardest languages ​​to learn[0]. This applies to both writing and pronunciation. For a year of preparatory courses, it is almost impossible to master it at the proper level. In addition, there are about 10 different dialects in the country itself. The standard Chinese or Mandarin taught at language schools is not actually native to the majority of Chinese people.
  2. Condescending attitude towards foreigners. The more international students come to China, the more prestigious the education here becomes. Therefore, if a foreigner does not keep up with the curriculum, for example, due to a language barrier, the university could turn the blind eye and let such a student pass. Because of this, the quality of the knowledge suffers. Of course, this is not the case everywhere: large and prestigious universities set the same requirements for everyone.
  3. High competition when applying for a job. Chinese students are very disciplined and hardworking. These qualities are nurtured in them literally from kindergarten. Therefore, even if a student from abroad received a quality education in one of the best universities of China, it will be extremely hard to compete for jobs with locals. Interviews in companies include several qualifying stages, and Chinese students send out at least a hundred resumes, during their final year, to improve their chances.
  4. Isolation and censorship. China is a communist country with its own traits. Many popular websites and social networks that can be accessed in the rest of the world are banned here[1], and party ideology is present in all spheres of life, including education. Foreign professors are constantly invited to local universities, but they are not always able to speak freely and conduct open discussions with students due to government restrictions.
  5. Culture shock. Those who have not lived in Asian countries before will definitely experience it. Foreigners will have to adapt to unusual food, customs, the pace of life, and Chinese technologies that are not used anywhere in the world: WeChat instead of WhatsApp, YouKu instead of YouTube, etc.[2] Not to mention that locals, due to China being a rather closed nation, often treat foreigners with distrust.

Tuition fees and education structure in China

Type of EducationAgeDurationMin. costAvg. costLanguage proficiencyExams
Summer Camp7+1-12 weeks480 USD/week550 USD/weekBeginner-
Language Schools10+1-24 weeks250 USD/weekcost of living not included380 USD/weekcost of living not includedBeginner-
Secondary education6+1-12 years2,500 USD/year6,000 USD/yearIntermediate (B1)Chinese, English, mathematics
Year-long language course161 year2,900 USD/year5,000 USD/yearBeginner-
Bachelor's18minors are required to have a legal guardian in China4 years2,000 USD/year4,000 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)HSK 4 / IELTS 6.0
Master's20+2 years2,300 USD/year5,000 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)HSK 5 / IELTS 6.5
MBA20+1-2 years4,200 USD/year14,000 USD/yearUpper-Intermediate (B2)HSK 5 / IELTS 6.5
Doctoral20+3-5 years4,400 USD/year5,500 USD/yearAdvanced (C1)HSK 6 / IELTS 6.5

The table shows approximate prices. Check the websites of educational institutions to learn the exact prices.

ItemAverage cost
Language exam 25 USD
Student visa140 USD
Registration fee63 USD
Flight400 USDdepending on the city of departure
Insurance94 USD/year
Dorm rent79 USD/month
Transportation14 USD/monthBus & Subway in Beijing
Meals204 USD/month
Study materials79 USD/month

Options and schemes of admission to universities in China

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Admission requirements in universities

It is possible to enter Chinese universities after 11 years of school or more. When the studies commence, the student must be 18 years old. Minors must have a legal guardian in China: a citizen or a holder of a residence permit.

All best and most popular universities in China are state-owned, and the admission requirements in them are about the same. Documents can be submitted 2 times a year: from March to June for the fall semester, and from October to January for the spring semester. Most universities accept applications in digital format: the applicant fills out a questionnaire on the university website and attaches the scanned copies of all necessary documents (originals + certified translations). There is also a centralized admission system for Chinese universities, CUCAS, but not all institutions use it.

As a rule, at the time of admission, a foreign applicant is still in school, which makes it impossible to provide a secondary education certificate. In this case, the university has the right to request your earlier certificates (if any) and grade transcripts from high school. GPA below 3.7 out of 5 is considered uncompetitive, but individual achievement can supplement that shortcoming. It is recommended to attach to the application all available diplomas, certificates, etc.. If your school or university had a student rating, it should also be indicated.

About 70% of courses at universities in the country are taught in Chinese, so applicants must provide an HSK certificate of at least level 4. Those who wish to study in English will need IELTS 6.0.

For bachelor's degree:

  • Completed application form on the university website;
  • School certificate + transcript with gradesfor those who are still in high school — grade transcripts for the last two years;
  • Language certificate HSK or IELTS;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • CV;
  • Motivation letter;
  • Sponsorship letter + sponsor's work certificate or account statement;
  • Video interview (if necessary);
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Police certificate.

Additionally for master's and doctoral studies:

  • Bachelor's/Master's degree + transcript with grades;
  • Exams in specialized subjects (if necessary);
  • Work experience from 2 years (more often for MBA);
  • Research proposalonly for doctoral studies (sometimes it is enough to approve the research topic with the supervisor).

All documents must have a certified translation into English or Chinese.

Check the list of documents and requirements on the websites of universities.

Legalization and recognition of a diploma in China

China did not sign the 1961 Hague Apostille Convention, therefore, in order to enroll in Chinese universities, as well as for employment in the country, you may need to undergo consular legalization of documents.

However, this is not required in all universities: in many cases, a notarized translation into English or Chinese, depending on the language of instruction, is sufficient. Moreover, requirements vary for different countries where the documents were issued. So, it is necessary to check what you have to do on the university websites.

Preparatory programs in China — Language courses at universities

The majority of promising specializations in China can only be studied in Chinese. Not all applicants speak it well enough at the time of admission, therefore the most common option for preparatory programs is Chinese language courses at universities. This scheme is called "1+4": students study the language intensively for a year, take HSK, and then enroll in bachelor's programs. You can come to such preparatory courses with any level of Chinese, but it is important to understand that it is extremely difficult to go from not knowing the language to B1-B2 proficiency in just one academic year. This usually takes 1.5-2 years.

Some language courses have partnership agreements with the universities on the basis of which they operate. In this case, graduates are immediately enrolled in the 1st year of the university without additional entrance examinations. But you should not count on such a chance: most Chinese courses are not tied to the university and do not give any guarantees of admission.

At universities that specialize in English-language education and work with international students, there are more familiar Foundation programs. Here, throughout the year, the basics of core subjects are studied, such as mathematics, physics, economics, computer science, as well as basic Chinese language and culture. Classes are taught in English.

Colleges in China — VET Vocational Education

In China, along with universities and other institutions, there are vocational and technical schools. Vocational education and training (VET) is most often obtained here in colleges, less often in institutes.

You can enter Chinese colleges after 9 years of school. Education here is focused primarily on professional development and further employment. All colleges teach in Chinese, so institutions that accept foreigners often allocate one extra year of studies to a language course.

Studying at vocational schools lasts 2–4 years. Depending on the length of study, graduates receive a certificate or diploma of vocational education. Some colleges cooperate with universities, and successful VET graduates can immediately enroll in the 2nd or even 3rd year of the bachelor’s program.

In early 2019, the Chinese government announced the launch of an ambitious reform and development program of Vocational Education. The main goal is to raise the quality and prestige of vocational schools over the next 5-10 years. So far, like in most countries of the world, they lag far behind universities in all respects.

Bachelor's degree in China

A foreign applicant can apply for a bachelor's program at a Chinese university right after school or college. There are educational programs in both Chinese and English. There are way fewer English ones (about 20-30% of the total) and they are more expensive.

Bachelor's degree (xueshixuewei zhengshu) is awarded on completion of 4 years of study, after gaining an average of 130-170 credits. The exception is medical, architectural and some engineering specialties, in which they study from 5 to 8 years. The final work is always a thesis of 50–70 pages. Those who complete their studies with an insufficiently high GPA or fail one of the final exams are issued a diploma of the course (biye zhengshu) without a bachelor's degree.

The curriculum usually consists of four subject categories:

  • General Required Courses: Fundamentals of Computer Literacy, English, Politics and Ideology, Sports;
  • Compulsory subjects in the specialty;
  • Electives in a broader field of the specialty: either science or humanities;
  • Elective courses from any area at the discretion of the student.
  • Completed application form on the university website;
  • School certificate + transcript with gradesfor those who are still in high school — grade transcripts for the last two years;
  • Language certificate HSK 4 or IELTS 6.0;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • CV;
  • Motivation letter;
  • Sponsorship letter + sponsor's work certificate or account statement;
  • Video interview (if necessary);
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Police certificate;
  • Consent from the guardian (for minors).

Master's degree in China

Master's programs in China last for 2 (less often 3) years. During this time, students earn an average of 27-39 credits. A Master's degree can have an academic or professional orientation. In both cases, a bachelor's degree in the same or related specialty is required for admission, but sometimes a college-level candidate with several years of experience in their field may be considered.

There are 2 types of master's degrees in China, depending on whether or not the student writes a 100-120-page graduate thesis at the end of the course. Those who managed to do so receive a full-fledged master's degree (shuoshi xuewei zhengshu). Those who simply took the required training courses — a graduate certificate (danzheng) without a degree. You cannot get a work visa with it.

MBA programs are also gaining popularity in China. Local business schools attract foreign students with very reasonable tuition fees compared to universities in Europe and the United States. Moreover, many Chinese institutions are developing their programs in collaboration with world leaders in business education. For example, China Europe International Business School works in cooperation with Harvard Business School.

  • Completed application form on the university website;
  • Bachelor's degrees + transcript with grades;
  • Language certificate HSK 5 or IELTS;
  • GMAT exam result (for MBA);
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • CV;
  • Motivation letter;
  • Sponsorship letter + sponsor's work certificate or account statement;
  • Video interview (if necessary);
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Exams in specialized subjects (if necessary);
  • Work experience from 2 years (more often for MBA);
  • Police certificate.

Doctoral studies in China

You can enroll in doctoral studies at a Chinese university either after a master's degree in a relevant field or after a bachelor's degree. In the case of the latter, the student will study for at least five years instead of the standard three, with a much higher academic load. However, the more standard way is to graduate from a master's program before starting a PhD — only the most successful students of the best universities in the country can skip this stage.

Chinese universities have doctoral programs in English, but they are few and it is rather difficult to get there. Other than that getting a PhD in China is a good option for an international student. China has a variety of research grants that will cover the cost of tuition and living expenses.

  • Completed application form on the university website;
  • Bachelor's / Master's degree + transcript with grades;
  • Language certificate HSK 6 or IELTS;
  • Letters of recommendation;
  • CV;
  • Motivation letter;
  • Research proposal (sometimes it is enough to approve the research topic with the supervisor).
  • Sponsorship letter + sponsor's work certificate or account statement;
  • Video interview (if necessary);
  • Exams in specialized subjects (if necessary);
  • Passport valid for the entire period of study;
  • Police certificate.

Chinese universities usually have high competition for teaching positions: up to 15 people per seat. This profession is considered respected and well paid by the country’s standards. To take a junior academic position after completing a PhD in China, you need to have scientific publications and experience in participating in research projects (other thanPhD). If a candidate has been educated abroad, especially in prestigious universities of Europe or the United States, he may be immediately offered a higher position. In addition, employees from abroad are provided with housing at the expense of the university. However, despite all the obvious advantages of working in China, foreign teachers often complain about the limitation of academic freedom: most of the country's universities are controlled directly by the state and must follow a strict political ideology.

Academic positions in today’s Chinese universities are similar to traditional Western ones:

  • Assistant Lecturer (助教 — Zhùjiào). Reads lectures to junior students under the supervision of an experienced university worker. Average salary: 2,041 USD/month.
  • Lecturer (讲师 — Jiǎngshī). Conducts classes in his core subject for students of different ages. In parallel, he is engaged in research activities with colleagues. Average salary: 3,768 USD/month.
  • Associate Professor (副教授 — Fùjiàoshòu). As a rule, at this stage, scientists already have longer-term contracts with universities, can recruit teams for their own research projects, and actively publish their work. Average salary: 4,867 USD/month.
  • Professor (教授 — Jiàoshòu). This highest academic title is awarded for outstanding achievements in science and contribution to the study of a specific field. Average salary: 9,421 USD/month.

It is important to note that it is almost impossible to indicate a universal average salary for academics in the country. Everything will depend on the specific region, university, experience, and education of the candidate.

Scholarships and Grants in China

Higher education in China is relatively inexpensive. At the same time, foreigners can study here even cheaper or entirely for free. If the applicant has excellent academic performance and Chinese language proficiency no less than HSK 4, an extensive range of scholarship programs will open before him:

  • Chinese Government Scholarship operates in 94 major public universities in China. A quota has been allocated for each country. The grant fully covers tuition and accommodation. Also, students receive about 300 USD monthly for personal expenses. Applications must be submitted from January to March to the Chinese Embassy or directly to the China Scholarship Council (CSC);
  • Local Government Scholarships are issued at a regional level. Candidates are selected by the administration of the city or province where the university is located. Grants can either partially or fully cover all tuition and living expenses. The program is aimed at increasing the attractiveness of certain regions of China for foreign applicants;
  • Confucius Institute Scholarships aim to popularize the Chinese language and culture in other countries. Scholarship winners usually study in related specialties. Most often it is teaching Chinese as a foreign language. The program organizers select the university for the receiver of the scholarship themselves. Branches of the Confucius Institute exist in many large universities outside of China;
  • School Scholarships are awarded by universities to the most academically successful applicants. This opportunity is not available everywhere, the information must be specified on the website of the chosen institution. After evaluating the profile of the future student, the commission can award him one of the following categories of scholarships:
    • A0-1 — free tuition + accommodation + extra monthly payment;
    • A2 — free tuition;
    • A3 — 50% discount on tuition;
    • A4 — 20-25% discount on tuition.

Student visa to China

To enter China for the purposes of study, you must obtain a student visa. It comes in two types: X1 for studies longer than 180 days and X2 for shorter trips, such as summer language courses.

To apply for a long-term visa, the administration of the university sends the applicant a notice of admission, as well as a form JW201 (for holders of a scholarship or grant) or JW202 (for those who pay for tuition themselves). The student then selects the embassy or consulate to apply for a visa. The university sends the confirmation of admission and all the necessary information there. The cost of applying for a Chinese student visa is 130 USD for US citizens and about 30 USD for citizens of other countries.

  • Completed visa application form;
  • International passport;
  • Two colored photographs 3.5x4.5 cm;
  • Invitation letter from the university;
  • JW201 or JW202 form;
  • Completed medical questionnaire (the form is issued at the consulate);
  • Passport: copies of the information page and registration.

Check the full list of requirements and documents on the website of the embassy / consulate.

After entering the country on an X1 visa, the student undergoes a compulsory medical examination. It is usually organized by the university. Only after that, you can get a residence permit, which allows you to stay in China during your studies at the university, as well asleave the country and come back.

Work while studying in China

From 2020, international students can work part-time. To do this, you need to obtain a part-time job license from the international department of your university, providing the NOC Letter (No Objection Certificate) from the supervisor. Those who have completed a master's or doctoral program in China can obtain a proper work permit. The minimum wage varies by region. The full list can be viewed here.

Many foreign students also work unofficially and receive a gray salary. The most popular options: foreign language teaching, performing in a movie or advertisement (European appearance is highly valued in China), participating in promotions. Such spontaneous part-time jobs can often take several days, and in Chinese universities, attendance is strictly monitored. Due to absences without a valid reason, a student may be not admitted to exams or be immediately expelled.

The opportunity to stay and immigration to China

After graduating from a Chinese university, you can stay in the country on a work visa, but doing this is quite hard. Every graduate is not given time to look for work, like in some European countries. In addition, there is a lot of competition in China: in the last year of university, local students send 150-200 resumes to various companies. It is not easy for a foreigner to compete with them.

Officially, a student from abroad can apply for a work visa Z after completing a bachelor's degree, if by that time he already has 2 years of experience. In practice, this is virtually impossible, as the opportunities for work while studying are limited.

There is no such problem at the end of the master's program: you can start working immediately after graduation. The Chinese government launched this program in 2017 for graduates of the most prestigious and famous universities in the country, but later it became available to all holders of master's degrees. In this case, a person must have a job offer (the employer is formally a sponsor of his work visa) and 80% of the grades that are not lower than B. It is also important to match the specialty of the future position, so the most practical option would be a "general" direction like business or IT, which can be applied in many areas. Knowledge of Chinese plays a huge role, even if you are applying for an international company.

Job prospects and opportunities

In China. Academically successful graduates have a chance to find a suitable vacancy in their last year of university, especially if they manage to get a research grant from a foundation or private corporation. But this is not easy: competition among students is very high. Many Chinese companies are willing to hire foreigners as it adds prestige, but fluency in Chinese and a high level of professionalism comes first. Young specialists are always in demand in the chemical and food industries, mechanical engineering, trade, and IT.

In Europe. Diplomas from Chinese universities are highly regarded in European countries, but work experience, references from teachers and former employers, and a good academic resume are much more important for employers. However, no matter what prestigious Chinese university the applicant graduates from, the employer will still give preference to a candidate with a diploma from a renowned European or American university. The only thing that can influence his decision is the applicant's work experience and personal merits.

Academic career. With a master's degree, a graduate can pursue a doctoral program at a Chinese university. After completing doctoral studies, the candidate has the opportunity to continue an academic career by passing a qualifying exam and obtaining a teaching position. The Chinese government supports young professionals in all endeavors by providing various benefits and decent wages.

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