CCG Releases Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad (2020-2021)


Recently, the blue book Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad (2020-2021) (hereafter “Report”), jointly compiled by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and the Institute of Development Studies, South West University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE), was published by Social Science Academic Press (China).


The Report presents up-to-date information on the latest trends related to study abroad – both in China and other countries – against the backdrop of COVID-19 and puts forward relevant policy recommendations. Since 2012, CCG has released seven blue books of the Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad, published the Social Science Academic Press (China). Some highlights from the report are outlined below.

Destinations for outbound study are more diversified

According to the statistics of The Open Doors Report 2020 released by the Institute of International Education (IIE), in the 2020-2021 academic year, the number of international students who received tertiary education in the US was 1,075,496, decreasing 1.8% from the 2018-2019 academic year. This is the first time for this number to drop after the 2008 financial crisis. China continues to be the third-largest destination country for studying abroad.


Chart. International Students Receiving Higher Education in the Eight Major Study Destination Countries in the World

Unit: person, %


Source: US Institute of International Education, Project Atlas (2019 release) The Open Doors Report 2020


Decline of the US as a PhD destination

From 2016 to 2017 the proportion of international students pursuing PhDs in the US decreased significantly to 26%, dropping 14 percentage points year-on-year, likely directly or indirectly connected with the Trump administration’s policies which restricted international students. Given the high demand for studying abroad, the proportional decline of students pursuing PhDs in the US might offer new opportunities for other countries.

Chart 2. Proportion of International Students Pursuing PhD in OECD Countries (2013-2017)

Unit: %

Source:OECD Data


COVID-19 impact

According to the Report, the income of many universities and colleges in the US dropped sharply under the impact of the pandemic. In just a few months of the 2020 Spring semester, the income of universities and colleges across the US has declined by $8 billion. K officials estimate that Covid-19 will cost the UK tertiary education sector £19 billion, which is equivalent to ¥173.3 billion.

Chinese students’ robust demand for outbound study

Covid-19 has not obviously impacted the demand for studying abroad. CCG’s research shows that the although the extensive spread of Covid-19 has brought a certain negative impact on Chinese students seeking to study abroad, students’ demand for internationalized tertiary education has not changed fundamentally. Studying abroad will remain as an important trend for future development despite of its delay during the pandemic.

Policy recommendations

In addition to highlighting the key trends in outbound study, the report also make policy recommendations in key areas, namely top-level design, destinations of study abroad, Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools, Chinese international schools, the protection of the rights and interests of overseas students, and overseas students returning to China.