More students eye Republic of Korea for further studies
College senior Xu purchased a Korean-Chinese dictionary last weekend at a bookstore in Beijing.
She is anxious to learn a bit of Korean language before her expected departure for the Republic of Korea (ROK) a couple of months from now.
In fact, the ambitious 22-year-old, who declined to give her full name, even started to do a bit of research on the country when she found out early last month that she might be admitted to a graduate degree programme there.
Nearing completion of her four-year degree programme in Renmin University of China in Beijing majoring in law,
Xu said she was eager to further her studies in a totally new environment.
Last December the opportunity came closer.
A renowned Seoul-based university, Transnational Law and Business University, dispatched a delegation to Beijing to recruit Chinese students.
Xu, a brilliant student in her senior year, stood out from numerous other applicants in both the written exam and interview.
Now, she is due to set off for the ROK in late August.
Actually, Xu is just one of thousands of Chinese students who go to study in the ROK annually.
According to the Embassy of the ROK in Beijing, the number of Chinese students pursuing higher education in the ROK has seen a steady increase in recent years.
Last year, the number of Chinese studying for a bachelor's degree or higher hit 4,070, said Lin Dae Ho, an official in charge of education issues at the Embassy of the ROK.
"Thanks to the good relations and frequent cultural exchanges between the two countries," he said, "the number of Chinese overseas students in our country has increased significantly in recent years."
Apart from the general policy of two countries that favour educational exchanges, there are many other factors that help explain the "Korea boom" among Chinese.
Lower school fees
College education in the ROK costs much less than in the United States and Japan.
According to Lin, studying in a private college in the ROK costs around 50,000 yuan (US$6,000) a year, including living expenses, reportedly only half the cost in Japan.
In public universities, the cost is only 30,000 yuan (US$3,600).
In addition, the ROK Government permits foreign students to engage in part-time work while studying and they can easily find work in restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and construction.
Some lucky students even land jobs in companies or Chinese language schools.
So it's theoretically possible for overseas students to pay their tuition and living expenses with money they earn while they are studying.
On top of this, financial guarantee deposits are much less than for those studying in other countries around the world.
"In Korea it is only US$10,000," said the official.
More importantly, many Chinese students are attracted by the practical curricula and outstanding teachers in Korean universities.
"I was told the university I am going to has visiting professors from renowned universities such as Yale and Stanford, and I am looking forward to that," said Xu.
It is also said that many The Republic of Korean universities regularly update their curricula and majors in accordance with market demand and the employment situation.
Consequently, students generally find it easier to get a job after graduation.
In contrast, some other countries that have been longstanding educational destinations for Chinese students are getting more difficult to get into.
Japan recently raised qualifications for its overseas students.
According to a report at Japan.people.com.cn, Japanese schools have recently instituted stricter financial guarantee standards, as well as language fluency requirements.
In the United States in recent years, the number of visa applications and approvals has been steadily decreasing, said Thurmond Borden, a top official with the US Embassy in Beijing.
And it is common to hear Chinese applicants complain that getting student visas to the United States is an uphill battle.
As a result, many students who had planned to study in Japan or the United States have now changed their plans, and are turning to the ROK as a more secure educational destinations
Magnet from ROK
Although some optimistic analysts predict a rising trend in Chinese students travelling to the ROK to further their education, other experts point out some negatives.
According to Zhang Limin, an adviser with Beijing-based Chivast Education International, universities in the ROK place great emphasis on academic achievement.
She said many Korean universities set very high standards for their applicants.
"For example, senior high school students are required to have taken the college entrance exam at home, prior to applying to a university in South Korea," said the senior adviser.
She added that several universities will only accept those who have obtained high marks in the exam.
Also, the ROK Ministry of Education has yet to work out comprehensive student enrolment regulations with relevant Chinese agencies.
But driven by huge profits, a few agencies at home co-operate with private agencies in the ROK, and they cannot always deliver what they promise to students.
So experts warn students to be cautious about these unauthorized agencies.
Another problem is that many Chinese students prefer Seoul, the capital of the ROK, as their first choice or only acceptable destination.
Experts suggest this attitude should be discouraged.
According to Zhang, one of the reasons why Seoul carries more weight than other cities in applicants' minds is that overseas students think there will be more job opportunities in the capital.
Xu said one of the reasons that she decided to study in the ROK is that the college she has applied for is in the capital.
But many students will be disappointed to find that quite a few Seoul-based universities establish branch campuses in the capital's suburbs, and that is where they place their overseas students, according to Zhang.
"Therefore it's not easy for students to land a part-time job in the urban areas as they expect because it's too far," said Zhang.