Study in China

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So you're thinking about studying in China? Read on to discover what this culturally diverse country can offer postgraduate students...

International students are compelled to study in China for many reasons; we could make you a list but to save time we'll skip to the important bits.

The Chinese government is currently investing heavily in the higher education sector, this, coupled with reasonably priced tuition fees, is drawing students to Chinese universities.

Life experience is another attraction, due to the country's sheer size you get to encounter a variety of cultures, climates and landscapes. International students regularly use their study holidays to explore the country.

If you're feeling homesick why not take a trip to Shanghai where you can visit one of China's many 'copy cat' towns? Thames Town is a replica of an English village with cobbled streets and an English pub so you'll feel right at home.

Masters degrees

Masters courses are available in a variety of subjects and usually require two to three years of study. To be admitted onto a course you will need to:

  • be aged 18 or above;
  • hold a valid passport;
  • hold a Bachelors degree or equivalent;
  • provide one/two letters of recommendation;
  • have HSK - Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (Chinese proficiency test) level 5-8 for Chinese taught courses;
  • submit recognised English proficiency test scores for courses taught in English.

Start dates at Chinese universities differ from western academic calendars as the autumn semester falls between February and July; and the spring semester between September and January.

When it comes to the recognition of your qualifications, you're covered. In April 2009 the Chinese government signed mutual recognition agreements with 64 countries and regions, (including the UK and USA), ensuring that your qualifications are recognised worldwide.

To search for a Masters course in China see CUCAS - Masters course.

Universities in China

When it comes to deciding on a Chinese institution you're spoilt for choice, the country has roughly 3,000 universities and colleges, which offer a combination of short courses, language studies and undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

Universities in China are usually public and are governed by the Ministry of Education. Many concentrate on a specific field of study - though not exclusively - and use this area of expertise in their title. For example, the Beijing Institute of Technology, China Agricultural University and the Ocean University of China.

China has 28 institutions in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15 with Tsinghua and Peking universities ranking highest. Beijing and Shanghai also feature within the top 20 of the QS Best Student Cities 2015. However, instead of rankings the Chinese more commonly refer to:

  • the C9 League - a group of nine universities considered equivalent to the British Russell Group or the American Ivy League;
  • Projects 211 and 985 - initiatives which aim to create more elite institutions and bring 100 Chinese universities up to a world-class standard.

Course fees

Studying in China is relatively inexpensive when compared with the USA or Britain. Larger cities on the East coast (Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) will cost more for accommodation and tuition fees than inland smaller towns and cities.

Course fees will vary with each programme, institution and location and usually increase each year so check with the admissions department of your chosen university.

When applying to study in China you need to consider:

  • application fees;
  • visa fees;
  • travel expenses;
  • tuition fees;
  • living costs;
  • accommodation costs.

Funding to study in China

Both full and partial scholarships are available for international postgraduate students through the Chinese Government Scholarship Programme. The China Scholarship Council manages these programmes and students with a high HSK (language proficiency) score are considered favourable for these scholarships.

The amount available will depend on location and subject, for more information see Study in China - Scholarships.

Chinese universities may offer their own scholarships so contact the institution directly to find out what's available.

How to apply

International students can apply for a place at a Chinese university online via China's University and College Admission System (CUCAS) or by applying directly to your chosen university. Official application deadlines:

  • autumn semester intake - late July, although all applications are encouraged to be made before this date;
  • spring semester intake - late January, again it is advised that all applications are submitted prior to this date.
  • Entry requirements will vary between universities but it's likely that you'll need to submit two letters of recommendation.
  • Some institutions ask that you have no criminal convictions and that you are able to prove a reliable financial state.

Students wanting to study on a Doctoral programme will need a Masters degree and admission onto undergraduate programmes requires students to be a secondary/high school graduate.

Language requirements

There are three major languages in China; Cantonese, Hokkien and Mandarin, the latter being the most commonly spoken in the country.

If you feel up to taking on a course in Mandarin you'll need to provide acceptable HSK results, usually to level 3-8 depending on your institution and subject area. Test centres are located throughout the world or alternatively you could learn the language while in China. To find out more about HSK see The Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK).

Those that struggle to get to grips with the tricky language shouldn't worry. There are a number of courses taught in English so there will be no need to prove your proficiency in Mandarin, although you may have to submit English proficiency results such as IELTS.

Student visas

In order to gain entry and temporary residence in China you'll need a study visa. The best time to apply is once you have received your letter of acceptance from your institution, all you have to do is visit your local Chinese embassy.

The type of visa needed will depend on the length of your course:

  • for less than six months you'll need a business visa (F-visa) or a tourist visa (L-visa), which you can convert to a study visa once in China;
  • for six months or more a study visa (X-visa) is required.

To apply you'll need:

  • to complete a visa application form;
  • a valid passport for the next 18 months;
  • passport photographs;
  • a health certificate;
  • a JW201/JW202 form from your educational provider.

For more information on visas and the required documentation see the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre.

Chinese exchanges and placements

If you are enrolled at a UK university you may be able to study at universities in China and Hong Kong through exchange programmes. Many institutions in the UK will have links to China so discuss this with your tutor or visit the international office.

For example, the BA (Hons) Business Management in China at the University of Central Lancashire involves two overseas placements, including a four-week study tour of Beijing and a full-year study and work placement.

IAESTE offers science, engineering and technology students the chance to embark on 12-week paid placements in the summer and for longer periods at other times of the year. Find out more at IAESTE UK.