International students should find increasing levels of investment in tertiary education to be a compelling reason to study in China.

In 2012, China reached its target of spending 4% of GDP on education. And it is currently investing US billion a year in “human capital” (source: New York Times), which includes the subsidy of education for young people moving from rural to urban areas, in an effort to lessen the gap between the educated elite and rural laborers.

The number of colleges and universities in China has doubled in the last decade to 2,409. The country’s current five-year plan, which extends to 2015, focuses on many development priorities that are appealing to western college graduates. And many Chinese universities are focusing on developing technologies that increase competitiveness with the West.

Key initiatives include Project 211, which aims to bring 100 Chinese universities up to a world-class standard, and Project 985, which aims to create an even more elite group of universities. Project 985 has resulted in the creation of the C9 league, which has ambitions of becoming something like the US Ivy League.

Universities in China

China has 39 institutions ranked in the QS World University Rankings® 2018, including six new entries, and substantially more universities are included in the QS University Rankings: Asia 2016.

With the growing global status of China, within trade, tourism and education, study in China is seeing huge increases in popularity. According to ICEF Monitor, 442,773 international students studied in China in 2016 (an increase of 11% from the previous year), while more than nine million students take the national university entrance examination every year, making China home to one of the largest education systems in the world.

By 2020, the Chinese government aims to have 500,000 international students enrolled in Chinese higher education, and it seems on track to reach its target. To support this goal, a growing number of international scholarships are being offered across the country. For a selection of these scholarship opportunities.

Cost of living in China

Inevitably for an economy that is growing so quickly, the cost of living in China is not quite as cheap as it used to be. But tuition fees are relatively low, around US,500 per year in Beijing. And the cost of living in Shanghai, China’s most expensive city, is estimated to be roughly half that of New York (source: Numbeo).

With accommodation costing between US and US per month (depending on the city), and transport a handful of small change, you’ll be spared the financial turmoil of students elsewhere.

Admission to universities in China

To apply for a place at a university in China, international students can use the centralized CUCAS (China’s University and College Admission System) website, or apply directly to the university. International students can also choose to apply for a Chinese Government Scholarship Program, and will find information about this on the CUCAS site.

Chinese visa requirements

After being offered a place at a Chinese university, you’ll need to head to your local Chinese embassy, and apply for a visa appropriate for your length of stay. Chinese visa requirements state that for a stay of six months or more, you will need a study visa (or X-visa). For less than six months, a business visa (or F-visa) will do. If you do not receive your admission package in time, you may be able to apply for a tourist visa (L-visa) and convert this to a student visa when you arrive.