Higher Education in China
China has more than 2,000 universities and colleges that offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. Institutes of higher education are concentrated in the eastern half of the country. China currently hosts about 300,000 international students; the majority of foreign students are from Asian countries, Russia, the United States, and France.
Although once highly regulated by the government, Chinese higher education institutions now have significant autonomy in choosing academic programs and organizational structure, making many schools more attractive to international students.
Why Study in China?
Many people obtain a master's degree in China for the cultural and language experiences. In addition, the cost for a masters degree is much lower than in Europe, the United States, or even most Asian countries. China has well-regarded master’s programs in disciplines such as engineering, science, economics, and business administration, as well as unique programs in areas such as Chinese language and martial arts. Although most master’s degree programs require proficiency in Chinese, many programs are now offered in English, especially for disciplines in engineering and business.
Recent government reforms and investments have moved three Chinese schools into the top 200 as ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) - Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Zhejiang University. China established the ARWU to use as a benchmark for evaluating the quality of Chinese institutes of higher education.
Master’s degrees are available in a wide range of disciplines, such as medicine, management, economics, engineering, philosophy, law, education, history, natural science and even military science. For those interested in studying primarily Chinese language and cultural studies, some institutions offer special programs for international students, such as the Beijing Language and Culture University.
Tuition and Program Duration
Tuition and fees generally run about $1,000-$2000 per semester in US dollars depending upon the school and program of study. Master’s degree programs take 2-3 years (4-6 semesters) to complete. Engineering and technical degrees typically require 3 years of study.
The academic year is based on two semesters, autumn and spring. The autumn semester starts in September and ends in late January or early February and the spring semester runs from February through June.
Many Chinese universities still struggle from the effects of the Cultural Revolution and only about 30 percent of college professors have advanced degrees. As a result, there are many employment opportunities for individuals with advanced degrees to teach in China. Non-Chinese master’s degree graduates will also be highly sought after by companies around the world that do business with China.
All international students require a visa. There are two types of visas for students, the Study visa (X-visa), which is for programs lasting more than six months, and the Business visa (F-visa) for programs of less than six months. The visa application process takes 2-4 weeks. In some cases, students are allowed to arrive in China with a tourist visa and then convert it to the Study visa.
The universities provide health insurance for about $100 (US) per year. Students must have a current medical examination before they can begin studying, which they can obtain in their home country or after arriving in China. The examination in China costs about $100 (US).
Chinese currency is called Renminbi, abbreviated RMB. RMB units are in Yuan, also sometimes called Jiao and Fen. The use of foreign currency in China is prohibited, but banks and many hotels provide exchange services.
MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club, and JCB card are the only credit cards currently accepted in China.
The official language in China is Standard Mandarin, which is based on the dialect of Mandarin spoken in Beijing. However, only 70 percent of the population speaks Mandarin as their first language and many distinct regional dialects exist across the country.
Prospective international students should work with the Chinese embassy in their country to ensure all immigration and other entrance requirements are met before traveling to China.