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Boom in studying
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Boom in studying

China sends record number of students to UK

BEIJING: China sent a record number of 151,690 students to the United Kingdom in 2021-22, more than any other country or alliance, including the European Union, according to the latest data from UK-based Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Experts say the prestige of the British university system and a relatively safe environment are among the key reasons for Chinese students being keen to study in the UK. The geopolitical tensions between China and the United States and Australia further work in the UK’s favour.

The HESA data revealed that the number of Chinese students in the UK has jumped by 44,475, or 41 per cent, between 2017-18 and 2021-22 and 27 per cent of all non-EU students were from China in the last enrollment year. William Vanbergen, founder of BE Education, an international education services provider in China, said, ”UK universities have been and are traditionally held in high regard by Chinese families. US geopolitical tensions have shifted a number of potential applicants to the UK.”

”The UK is attractive in terms of price and time (three years for undergraduate studies and one year for masters) compared to most other countries. The UK is perceived as safe, especially in light of the number of gun crimes in the US reported in the media,” he added. Julian Fisher, a senior partner at the consultancy Venture Education, said what has also contributed to the growing number of Chinese students studying in the UK is that the past 20 years saw a boom in English teaching in China, aligned with the growth of internationally oriented schools, summer camps and after-school activities. He said that these factors, combined with the growth of the middle-income group in China, the competitiveness of Chinese university entry, geopolitical tensions with the US and Australia, the relative stability and quality of UK education had all contributed to the increased numbers.

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HESA’s record for 2021-22 showed for the first time that the number of Chinese students enrolled overtook the total number from the EU (120,140), a significant drop of 21 per cent compared with the year before. The first-year EU domiciled enrollments dropped even further, by 53 per cent from 2020-21 to 2021-22. Such a decrease aligns with the UK’s exit from the EU and a change in the international fee policy on August 1, 2021.

Susan Fang, founder of educational consultancy OxBridge Holdings, said, ”It is a simple matter of economics. EU student numbers will continue to drop until supply and demand reach equilibrium. That’s when the remaining interested students are willing to pay the higher fees charged.”

”With many European universities, such as those in the Netherlands and Ireland, offering degrees taught in English at a fraction of a UK degree’s price, and with well-resourced US universities offering generous scholarship packages to the most competitive students, it will be tough for the UK to attract European students,” Fang explained. While EU enrollment numbers saw a decrease in 2021-22, non-EU first-year enrollments rose by 32 percent.

The large number of Chinese students in UK universities has also raised concerns about an overreliance on this market for income. ”Ideally, no one should put all their eggs in one basket. For the sake of students and faculty experience, it is always good to have a healthy diversity. But, we don’t live in an ideal world,” Fang said.

Courtesy: China Daily

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