CCG Annual Report: Number of Chinese Studying Abroad Reaches Record High in 2016; More International Students in China Come from Countries along B&R

May 23 , 2019
On Dec. 18, 2017, CCG released the bluebook Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Studying Abroad 2017, in cooperation with the Institute of Development at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics and the Social Sciences Academic Press.

On Dec. 18, 2017, CCG released the bluebook Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Studying Abroad 2017, in cooperation with the Institute of Development at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics and the Social Sciences Academic Press. The sixth book of the sequel is focused on the new challenges and opportunities presented by the globalization driven by “One Belt and One Road” Initiative in 2016.

The annual report comprises four sections, which are general report, and the reports by research topics, special issues, and regional interests. It combines the ideas and views of many scholars and experts in international education and reveals the latest trend in studying abroad worldwide and within China from 2016 to 2017. More specifically, the book reivews the current status of the overseas Chinese students graduating in 2016 and analyzes the career development paths of the Chinese who obtained master degrees abroad between 2011 and 2013. The book also discusses the issues like China’s policies to attract overseas Chinese students back home, job search challenges for overseas Chinese, and placement of the students from Belt and Road Initiative countries as well as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao in the education institutions in China’s mainland. Besides, it updates on the new policy development of some popular studying abroad destinations in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia.

The general report provides an overview of the new features of Chinese studying abroad, international students in China, and international education in 2016, with a focus on the issues including overseas Chinese returnee employment, new immigration policy development, and the impact of regional integration policies like the B&R Initiative on international education. Based on the analysis of the new trends and policies, this section eventually proposes some measures to further promote Chinese studying abroad and attract more international students to China.

The report identifies several new features in the development of Chinese studying abroad. For one, China remains the world’s No. 1 place of origin for international students, especially in America, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and UK, although the increase has slowed down over the past year.

In terms of the academic subjects, foreign language and literature studies, education and business management degree programs continue to win popularity among the Chinese studying abroad, while engineering science and technology, computer and information science, math and statistics, and social sciences subjects are running out of  steam.

Looking into the age range of Chinese students studying abroad, the report finds out the growth in the number of attending overseas middle schools has outpaced that of college students. In American, over 40% of the international students in the middle schools came from China, while this rate in Canada and Australia has both exceeded half.

The growth in the number of returning overseas Chinese students has exceeded that of the Chinese studying abroad. According to the latest statistics from Chinese Ministry of Education, in 2016, a total of 432,500 Chinese students abroad returned to China, 4% higher year on year than 2015. However, how to provide sufficient and suitable job opportunities has also become an issue that requires immediate and effective solution.

An emerging issue that has caused a great impact on Chinese studying abroad is the security concern, especially after the case of a Chinese female student was suspected of being murdered in Chicago. Another issue that has drawn a lot of attention is Chinese students’ academic credibility, following the disclosure of several academic cheating incidents that has caused damage to the overall image of Chinese students abroad.

The report also discusses the rapid development of joint venture and cooperation in education in China to prepare Chinese to study abroad. As of now, there have been around 550 English-teaching international schools, making China one of the nations that have largest numbers of international schools.

Regarding the international education in China, the report points out that the number of international students in China has been increasing at a two-digit rate, and the increase specially came from the Belt and Road countries. It is partly due to the breakthrough in China’s policies to provide internship opportunities to international students after they graduate.

As the No.1 place of origin for international students, China continues to play a crucial role in global education. In 2016, driven by the Belt and Road Initiative and other open-up policies, more international students have been enrolled in Chinese higher education institutions. Especially, those from Thailand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Laos have increased more than 20% on average. This has significantly reduced China’s decifit in international education, and given China a more important role in globalization and global governance.

The increase, according to the report, is attributed to the breakthrough in the policies that allow and encourage international students’ internship, innovation and business start-up in China after graduation and the policies that attract foreign talents to work in China. Also, an increasing number of Chinese companies started to invest in the “B&R” countries that create more job opportunities for local people and motivate them to study in China.

The report also shed the light on international education. As a key force in international migration, international students have been impacted by major global affairs in the recent years. The number of the international students bound for America between 2016 and 2017 has only increased by 3.4% to 1.08 million, compared to the 7.1% rise in the previous year. The growth in the number of international students heading for UK has also slowed down in 2016 for the first time. As CCG President Wang Huiyao explained, it is mainly due to the Trump administration’s rising protectionism policies and British government’s adjustment to its education, employment and immigration policies in response to the economic decline in UK. As a result, international students who graduated in American and British universities or colleges have more limited opportunities to obtain work permit to stay on.

The report also finds out that Asia already claims six out of the top 10 source places for international students, which are China’s mainland, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Iran and Indonesia. It’s estimated that more international students come from middle-income economies. Among all the international students, the share of PHD candidates is increasing, to nearly 40% in the United States and over half in Switzerland.

Below are some highlights in the general report section of the 2017 Report on the Development of Chinese Studying Abroad:

  1. The increase in the number of international students bound for America and UK slowed down in 2016, while China became a more popular destination.

CCG’s analysis of the international education situation in 2016 finds out a new trend: the growth in the number of international students bound for America and UK, traditionally the most popular destinations for international education, has slowed down, mainly due to the rising degloblization represented by Donald Trump’s election victory and Brexit.

According to the statistics from the Institute of International Education, between 2016 and 2017, the total number of international students admitted to the higher education institutions in the top eight destinations has reached 353.4 million, slightly (0.04%) less than the period of 2015-2016. Meanwhile, the grow rate of the number of the international students admitted to American colleges or universities declined 3.7% from the previous year. In British colleges or universities, the grow rate only increased 0.3%.

Trump’s win put a brake on the growth in the number of international students admitted to America. Since his sworn-in, the number of F1 visa issued to the students from China’s mainland was 148,000 in 2016, dropping by 46% from 2015.In addition, the international students from other countries like India and South Korea also decreased to different extent, as a result of the Trump administration’s conservative immigration and work permit policies.

On the contrary, China, Australia and Canada continue to receive more international students last year. China, for instance, remains as the 3rd most popular destination for international students, receiving 442,773 between 2016 and 2017, or 11.4% higher than the previous year.

  1. Asia remains the largest source of international students, with China accounting for the largest number of them; ranking is the most important factor for school selection.

Among the world top 10 destinations for studying abroad in 2015, six countries are in Asia, which are China’s mainland, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Iran and Indonesia. Three are in Europe, which are Germany, France, and Italy. Canada is the only North American country on the ranking list.

CCG research finds out that middle-income economies have growing demand for studying abroad, which may further increase as they become more prosperous and have more pursuit for higher education quality.

According to the result of a survey conducted by WSE, among all the polled Chinese students abroad, 61% of them chose school reputation as the top consideration for their school selection, followed by application successful rate (48%), school location (40%), expected income level after graduation (39%). For Indian students, application successful rate is most important  factor, which was chosen by 64%, followed by school reputation (49%) and income level after graduation (40%). However, they attach more importance to academic research opportunities rather than school location. The survey also finds out that tuition fee is not quite a major consideration for international students.

  1. Despite tightening immigration policies in UK and America, they have stepped up the competition for international high-level talent.

Based on the study of permit issuance and immigration policies in America, UK and Germany, the report finds out that they have a strong impact on a country’s attractiveness to international students. For instance, a series of changes made by the Trump administration to the immigration policies, such as H-1B visa issuance restriction and Muslim ban, have discouraged international students to choose America as their studying abroad destination. That being said, America still stands at the frontline competiting for international high-level talent and improving its talent recuitment policies to gain an upper hand.

Similarly, UK also adjusted its policies towards international students, foreign workers and immigrants, in response to the economic slowdown, which has further limited the possibilities for international students to work in UK after graduation. On the other hand, to attract high-level and innovative talent around the world, the British government announced in November, 2017, to double the number of T-1 visa (for entrepreneur) for foreigners.

In comparison, Germany has become a more popular destination for international students, young entrepreneurs and immigrants, for its strong economy, advanced academic research and technology innovation capacity, and unique cultural environment. However, since 2016, Germany government has tightened work permit issuance policies. Besides, Germany is facing the challenge of a large number of refugees and  subsequent social problems. This has brought negative impact on its effort to attract international students and talent.

  1. International students are pursuing higher academic degrees in OECD countries; the countries that exporting international students need to strive to achieve talent inflow.

Based on CCG research, the share of international students in the total number of PHD candidates in OECD countries has been continuously increasing between 2012 and 2015. This percentage has reached 54% in Switzerland after growing 1% each year since 2012. In America, this rate also increased from 29% in 2012 to 38% in 2015.

The continuous increase of international students that are pursuing PHD degrees can boost academic and technology innovation capacity of the developed countries. Therefore, it is imperative for the sourcing countries of such high-level talent to establish a system for attracting talent  and mitigate the brain deficit.

  1. China has the largest number of students studing abroad; “Internet Plus” has reboosted their preference for business management-related subjects.

China remains the world’s No.1 source of international students, although the growth has slowed down. According to the Ministry of Education, in 2016, a total of 544,500 Chinese have gone abroad to study, 3.97% higher than 2015, but the growth rate went down by 9.93%. From 1978 to 2016, over 4.58 million Chinese have studied abroad.

Currently, China is the largest source of international students to many countries, accounting over 30% of the total in America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This share has reached 57.3% in Japan and 49.3% in South Korea. In some European countries such as UK, Sweden, and Switzerland, China is also the major source of international students, although the share is less than 10%.

In 2016, the share of Chinese students in the total number of international students remain virtually unchanged in the key destinations for studying abroad. It increased 6.2% in Australia and 6.86% in Switzerland; but declined 6.6% in Japan and 4.7% in South Korea. Overall, China remains the No.1 source of international students in those countries.

The Year 2016 has witnessed some change to the studying abroad preference of Chinese college graduates. The number of the students who chose to study engineering, computer science and IT, math and statistics, and social sciences continued to decline, while more of them chose to study business management, foreign language and literature, and education. The subjects related to business management, including finance, trade and corporate management, became more popular among Chinese studying abroad, as “Internet +” development in China creates more demand for the professionals in such fields.

  1. The number of middle school applicants studying abroad has increased rapidly.

According the data from IIE’s Globally Mobile Youth report, the number of Chinese enrolled in American middle schools has reached 33,275 in 2016, accounting for 41% of the total number of the international students and registering a 48% increase from the 2012-2013 academic year. In comparison, the number of Chinese college students and exchange students only increased 12% during the same period. As a matter of fact, this has exceeded the average growth rate of American middle school students. As theIIE report points out, the fact that many Chinese middle schoolers have F-1 and J-1 visas to America proves their preference for American high school diplomas. Among them, 69% has the intention to apply for American higher education institutions after graduation.

  1. Safety and academic credibility rise as top concerns for Chinese studying abroad

A series of tragic incidents that happened to Chinese students abroad has brought the safety issue into spotlight. It has become a top concern since more younger Chinese are going abroad to study while racism is still a realproblem in some key destinations. According to the data from the Consular Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the consular protection and assistance requests they have received from Chinese citizens abroad have increased from 36,800 in 2012 to over 100,000 in 2016. From 2014 to 2015, the number of overseas Chinese students who raised such requests increased from 932 to 6,185.

Academic credibility also emerged as a prominent item after several misconducts were disclosed by Chinese students abroad. According to the report, in the past year, Chinese students were persuaded to quit mainly for two reasons – poor academic performance (39.86%) and academic dishonesty (32.57%).

  1. International schools and Chinese-foreign cooperatively-run schools provide new alternatives to studying abroad.

As of now, there have been 550 English-teaching international schools established in China’s mainland, the largest number in a single country, as many parents want to better prepare their young children to study abroad.

  1. Overseas Chinese returnees are facing mounting pressure in their job search; family reunion became the major reason for their return.

As more and more Chinese go abroad to study, the value of their diplomas obtained from foreign education institutions is somehow decreasing. Back at home, the returnees are facing stronger competition in the job market. According to the Ministry of Education, around 432,500 Chinese students abroad returned home in 2016, accounting for 80% of the total graduates that year and increasing 3.97% from 2015. What deserves more attention is that the growth in the number of returning Chinese students has outpaced that in the number of Chinese going abroad to study in 2016.

Based on CCG survey, nearly half of the Chinese students studying abroad believe they are more competitive than their peers graduated  from domestic higher education institutions. However, they also understand well about their disadvantages in the job market, such as lack of understanding of domestic job market and employers’ expectation (65.9%); inability to accustom themselves to domestic social context and business etiquette (45.3%); and unfamilarity with domestic market environment (41%).

CCG President Dr. Wang Huiyao pointed out that as domestic job market has higher demand for applicants’ work experience and capabilities, higher education diplomas obtained abroad can no longer guarantee employment. Those who are studying abroad or preparing to study abroad should take a second thought about the value of the experience and adjust their expection on the outcome, knowing exactly what kind of knowledge, skills, and capabilities they need to acquire. Meanwhile, they should seize the chances to expand networks, take internships, and participate in community work to seek career development opportunities.

Nowadays, more and more Chinese returnees were born between 1980 and 2000. CCG survey shows that 53.3% of those polled were born in the 1990s and 42.3% in the 1980s. Therefore, most of them are from single-child family, and family reunion is a major consideration for their decision to return home after graduation.

  1. Chinese students abroad have more national pride and sense of mission to make China a stronger country.

Thanks to China’s rapidly growing economy, Chinese have gained more national pride, including overseas Chinese students.Nearly 63% of the returnees agreed that while studying abroad, they have become more patriotic and driven to make contribution to their homeland.

  1. The number of international students into China grow continuously and the countries along the “B&R” play a major role

According to the Ministry of Education, in 2016, the number of international students enrolled in China’s education institutions under a double-digital growth to 443,000, 11.3% higher than 2015 and 299% more than 2004. Those from the Belt and Road countries, in particular, accounted for most of the growth. However, it is still far below the number of the Chinese studying abroad, showing that China needs more effort to reduce studying abroad deficit.

More and more international students arrive in China with the process of the “B&R” projects. The average growth reaches as high as 20 percent year by year especially from the countries like South Korea, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Laos which are all along the “B&R” route.

More international students from the Belt and Road countries enrolled in China’s education institutions can provide more high-quality local talent to help implement the strategy and perform as medium to spread Chinese language and culture in their own countries. It has been noticed that along with the rise of China’s economy and international status, many countries and regions have made Chinese a strategic language since it became much needed for either personal career development or business cooperation.

  1. China has made a breakthrough in the policies that allow international students in China to stay on after graduation for internship or work.

In July, 2015, the Ministry of Public Safety issued 12 entry and exit policy measures to support Shanghai’s “Science Innovation Center”, including a 2-year residence permit to the international students who do internship or work in China after they graduate from Chinese higher education institutions. Later on, similar policy measures were also adopted by Beijing and Guangdong.

In January, 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly released  the notice Allowing Outstanding Foreign University Graduates to Be Employed in China. According to the policy, “foreign students who have obtained a master’s degree or above from institutions of higher education within the territory of China and have graduated for less than one year, and foreign graduates who have obtained a master’s degree or above from overseas well-known institutions of higher education and have graduated for less than one year” can be granted a work permit valid up to five years in China. This policy removes the ban on the international students graduating in China to be employed or start business here, and also clears the barriers to recruit more global talent inChina.

CCG Recommendations:

The report proposes some policy measures to promote the health development of Chinese studying abroad and international education in China, such as helping Chinese better evaluate the value of studying abroad, attracting more international students from the Belt and Road countries to China, enhancing overseas Chinese students’ self-protection awareness and capability through education and training.

  1. Help Chinese students correctly evaluate the value of studying abroad

CCG believes it necessary to objectively and comprehensively evaluate the value of studying abroad, which can help Chinese students and their families make rational decisions and plans. Meanwhile, CCG calls for more career services and support for returnees, using big data tools and innovation and entrepreneurship incentives.

  1. Enhance self-protection awareness and capabilities of overseas Chinese students through training and education

Self-protection awareness is the key to improve Chinese students’ safety situation abroad. CCG calls on their parents to guide them to develop capabilities for independent living and thinking, and on the society to take on some responsibilities and provide them needed assistance.

  1. Attract more international students from the B&R countries to China

CCG suggests that it is necessary to expand the channels and models to enroll the students from the “B&R” countries in China’s higher education institutions. It is also important to remove the restriction on their work permit in China and allow them to participate in the mass innovation and entrepreneurship while help spread Chinese language and culture to their own countries.