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.
Advantages of education in China
  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.
Disadvantages of education in China
  1. Difficult language. Chinese is considered to be one of the hardest languages ​​to learn[1]. 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[2], 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.[3] Not to mention that locals, due to China being a rather closed nation, often treat foreigners with distrust.

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.

Need help with admission?

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.
Documents required for admission
  • Completed application form on the university website;
  • School certificate + transcript with grades;
  • 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.

Documents required for admission
  • 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.

Documents required for admission
  • 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.
Academic Career in China
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: 1,797 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: 3,317 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: 4,284 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: 8,292 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.
Enter a university abroad

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.

Studying abroad with UniPage

Want to study at a foreign university but don't know where to start? We can help!

Our specialists will find a university, arrange your documents, fill out the applications, and stay in touch until you receive an offer.