The following statistics are taken from EIC’s “Key China Education Statistics for International Educators,” released November 2011.

Chinese Students Studying Abroad
19.3% growth between 2010 and 2011 in number of Chinese students going abroad for the first time

339,700 Chinese students went abroad for study in 2011. This marks a slight decrease in growth rate from the previous year’s 24.3%, and a near 10% drop from the peak growth rate of 27.4% in 2009, soon after the financial crisis hit the US.

Chinese Student Study Abroad Numbers

Source: EIC’s “Key China Education Statistics for International Educators,” Nov 2011.

92.6% of Chinese students studying abroad were self-funded in 2011.

Of the 339,700 students who studied abroad, approximately 314,800 were self-funded. Only 7.3% of the students (24,900) received funding from the Chinese Ministry of Education and other public authorities for research degrees.

The percentage of publically funded students has hovered between 7-10% between 2005 and 2011, despite a tripling of students heading abroad during this period. This indicates that Chinese families are both more willing and more able to privately pay domestic tuition costs.

Domestic Demand & Capacity for Higher Ed
72.3% of high school students who participated in the Gaokao were admitted to universities in 2011

Participation the national university entrance exam peaked in 2008 and has since dropped to approximately 9.2 million. However, the percentage of gaokao-takers admitted to university each year has steadily increased, indicating a constantly increasing capacity for domestic higher education.

32.8% of domestic graduate program applicants were enrolled in 2011

After showing steady increases throughout the 2000’s, the percentage of candidates for graduate admissions enrolled has held steady at approximately 33% for the past few years. Domestic graduate programs are scaling up in capacity but still not quickly enough to outstrip demand.  This means international graduate programs are well-positioned to grow Chinese graduate student recruitment.

Over 33 million Chinese students were enrolled in higher education in 2010

The capacity for domestic higher education has tripled since 2000.  The four most popular recruiting provinces are Henan, Jiangsu, Shandong and Guangdong, each with over 2 million students who are in higher education.  This contradicts the common assumption that most university students come from major metropolitan areas, Beijing, Shanghai, etc.

292,611 foreign students studied in China in 2011

The number of foreigners who study abroad in China has been steadily increasing since 2003.  Korea and the USA (the leading sending countries) each sent over 20,000 students to study in China last year. China’s Ministry of Education intends to host 500,000 international students by 2020 and become the largest destination for overseas study for students from Asia.


Self-funded students continue to dominate the study abroad market, which is good news for schools looking for full-pay students. Opportunities for recruiting students on Chinese publicly funded scholarships, however, are fairly limited.

Since many provinces represent a larger opportunity for international educators, universities can look beyond the more competitive metropolitan areas and think about developing a regional strategy for recruitment in the mid- to long-term.

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