Will China dominate international higher education enrollment future?

Will China dominate international higher education enrollment future?

“China harbors long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order.”

James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense, United States



I don’t know if Secretary Mattis’ quote would apply to international higher education but I believe there are enough statistics to support the premise that part of China’s plan to rewrite the existing global order also includes higher education domination.

The following statistics support this premise.

Twenty years ago there were 3.4 million college and university students in China. Today there are more than 26 million. In 2017 nearly 490,000 international students studied in China, an increase of 10.5 percent from the previous year.  Since 2004, the number of international students enrolling in Chinese colleges and universities increased by nearly 300 percent.

Last year China edged out Germany as the third most popular destination for international students and could soon overtake Britain, Australia, and Canada for increased international student enrollment.

China has made a long-term investment in higher education. The country’s One Belt, One Road initiative enrolled, and will continue to enroll, students from the countries along the ancient Silk Road. Last year 317,000 international students who enrolled in China were from Belt and Road countries and two-thirds of all international students studying in China are from Belt and Road countries.

China has significantly increased enrollment of African students by offering generous scholarship and employment opportunities. In 2017, 12 percent, or nearly 59,000 African students, studying in China, received scholarship assistance.

It is by design, rather than by accident, that the number of international students continues to increase significantly each year.  Chinese tuition and fees are lower than most other universities. Tuition and fees for one year of study in China is approximately $3,200. The number of English taught programs has increased by 63 percent in the last five years and that has attracted students from around the world.

A new visa policy allowing international students to work and remain in China after graduation is also another factor attracting a global international student population. According to China’s National Development and Reform Commission, 89 percent of international students studying in China plan to pursue short-term internships and 95 percent plan to take advantage of China’s policy of allowing foreigners to work after graduation.

In 2017, China was the most popular destination for Asian and Southeast Asian international students, including students from South Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Japan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, and Laos.

In October 2018, The Jakarta Post reported that there are currently 68,000 Indonesian students studying in China and the Chinese government has set a goal of increasing that number to 100,000.

China is now the leading host for international branch campuses, edging out the United Arab Emirates.

In 2015, Xiamen University, in collaboration with the Malaysian government, opened up its first international branch campus abroad.

China is the largest source of doctoral students worldwide. Most of these students are concentrated in critical, scientific fields.

According to Ian Bremmer, China is investing huge sums in artificial intelligence, robotics and data management that will impact the balance of power in the future. Innovation and technological self-reliance are now essential to China’s future development strategy. Made in China 2025 is central to President Xi’s vision for China.

A new study by the World Intellectual Property Organization ranked 167 universities and public research universities for the top 500 patent applications. 110 of the patents were from China, 20 from the United States and 19 from South Korea.

Chinese universities are among the top 30 artificial intelligence filers. Chinese organizations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players for artificial intelligence patents and 10th of the top 20 in artificial intelligence scientific publications.

In 2018 the China State Council issued a Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Develop Plan with the goal of becoming the premier global artificial innovation center by 2030.

Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google, predicted China’s prowess will overtake the United States within a decade.

Will China dominate international higher education enrollment in the future? These statistics would support that supposition. However, there are as many, if not more, negative statistics that would suggest the opposite. There are economic and political trade winds pushing against China’s dominance on the world stage and in higher education.

China’s prominence on the world stage and in higher education has been nothing short of sensational. Will it continue and is it sustainable? The jury is still out.



This entry was posted in Colleges, Foreign Students, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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