Is China Both a Source and Hub for International Students?

Is China Both a Source and Hub for International Students?


Decades of economic development have enabled China’s leaders to modernize the country’s education and transformed China into a hub for international students. Whereas foreign students historically only traveled to China for language courses, students from around the world are increasingly drawn to China to enroll in technical courses and attain professional degrees. China’s economic boom has also created new opportunities for middle-class families to send their children to study abroad. Cultivating talent both at home and abroad will be critical for Chinese leaders as they push for an innovation-based economy driven by a well-educated workforce.

More international students are flocking to China than ever before. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), over 440,000 foreigners studied in China in 2016 – marking a 35 percent increase from 2012. China attracts more international students than any other Asian power and ranks third globally, behind the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to China’s Ministry of Education (MOE), the total share of international students seeking higher-education degrees in China grew by 13 percent over the past 10 years, jumping from almost 55,000 students in 2006 to nearly 210,000 students in 2016. As a share of all foreign students in China in 2016, 33 percent pursued undergraduate degrees, while 14 percent pursued either Master or Doctorate degrees. Approximately 30 percent of students were enrolled in primary or secondary schools.

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