Bid to attract foreign students gears up

By Wang Ying and Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-24 06:43

The country is pushing ahead in its efforts to become a leading destination for international students, riding on the wave of a growing number of foreigners coming to study in recent years.

An American student of Nankai University paints "I love Tianjin" on a piece of paper together with primary shchool pupils in the municipality last month, as part of an event to show support for the coming Beijing Olympics. [China Daily]

This year alone, the authorities will increase the amount of scholarships for foreign students - a group that grows by 3,000 people every year - to attract more of those coming for advanced degrees and study, China Daily learned from the Ministry of Education in a recent interview.

The government has earmarked 500 million yuan ($71 million) for the scholarships this year, up 40 percent from that of last year.

The grants will provide each student free education and accommodation, plus a monthly bonus of 800 to 1,400 yuan, the ministry said.

The move comes on the back of a rising number of foreigners educated in the country.

Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Masimov is one such student.

Masimov was also awarded an honorary doctorate and named an "outstanding alumnus" by his alma mater, Wuhan University in Hubei province, on April 10 during his official visit to China.

"I was deeply touched by the city's beautiful scenery and the professors' earnest attitude toward scholarship," said Masimov, who studied in the university's law school between 1989 and 1991 when he was in his twenties.

The number of foreign students studying in China reached a record of more than 195,000 last year, up 20 percent year on year, latest figures from the ministry showed.

"With a good social environment, fast economic development and rising international stature, China has become more and more attractive to foreign students in recent years," said Zhao Lingshan, the ministry's official in charge of foreign students' study in China.

"The country's improved quality of higher education has received worldwide recognition," Zhao said.

China has also signed mutual diploma recognition contracts with 32 countries including Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Russia.

Students came to China attracted by its unique culture and low cost of living and tuition, he said.

Last year, foreign students came from 188 countries and regions and studied in the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in the Chinese mainland, official figures showed.

Chinese universities provide both diploma education and non-diploma education, with the former including senior and junior undergraduate students, masters students, and PhD candidates, and the latter including trainees and research scholars.

Last year, more than 68,000 foreign students came to China to seek diploma education.

More than 10,000 foreign students were sponsored by Chinese government scholarships last year, up 20 percent from that of the previous year.

Most of the international students, or more than 72 percent, came from Asia last year. Thirteen percent hailed from Europe, 10 percent from the Americas, 3 percent from Africa and 1 percent from Oceania.

Last year, the top five countries international students in China came from were South Korea, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and Thailand, official statistics showed.

The international students study subjects including Chinese, medicine (both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine), basic science, engineering, agriculture, economics and management.

Currently, more than 400 Indian students alone are studying for their degree in medicine at Tianjin Medical University.

The average tuition at a Chinese medical university is between $2,000 and $3,000 a year, plus another $1,000 to cover board and lodging, which is only one-quarter of the cost in India.

"This is much more affordable," said Manpreet Kaur, a second year medical student at the university.

In Xi'an Jiaotong University,

more than 600 foreign students study in the university's medical college, with the other 470 studying in other departments, said Zhang Jian, a teacher in charge of the foreign students.

The students at the medical college are mainly from Pakistan, Nepal and India. The college teachers all teach these students in English, so the students can concentrate on the medical courses, Zhang said.

Rajiv Kumar Jha, a Nepalese PhD candidate in the medical college who published his research paper The Protective Effect of Resveratrol on the Intestinal Mucosal Berrier in Rats with Severe Acute Pancreatitis on Jan 1 this year in the US-based Medical Science Monitor, said he is happy studying in the college and the English teaching made it easier for him to understand the courses and develop his own research.

Waka Moshin Durrani, another student from Pakistan at the medical college, said that the school provides them both quality study and living conditions. It also arranged leisure activities for them.

"For instance, the school also helped us celebrate our Muslim festivals," Waka said.

Song Yuxia, a teacher in charge of the university's international education, said courses for foreign students started in the 1950s, when the school received students from only Russia and Mongolia. Now, the school has 1,070 students from 51 countries worldwide.

Study for foreign students in the country has come a long way.

In 1950, China received the first group of 33 students from East European countries. By the end of last year, the total number of international students in China increased to 1.24 million, figures from the Ministry of Education showed.

Since 1978, when China initiated its reform and opening-up policy, successes have been made in maintaining social and political stability and the rapid growth of economy, and this has consequently attracted more international students, educators have said.

To help facilitate international students coming to the country, the China Scholarship Council and the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange under the Ministry of Education continue to provide online enrollment and consulting services.

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