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Europe sees increase in postgraduate Chinese students

By ZHAO YIMENG | | Updated: 2024-05-08 08:32
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A booth promoting study in the United Kingdom at the China Annual Conference for International Education and Expo in Beijing on Oct 23, 2021. GUO HAIPENG/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

European countries are becoming popular destinations for Chinese students seeking further education overseas, especially in recent years thanks to economic-friendly tuition fees and a steady social environment.

Although the United Kingdom and the United States remained the top two countries for Chinese students intending to pursue postgraduate studies last year, their popularity had decreased compared to previous years, according to the 2023 Report on Chinese Student Overseas.

The report, released by New Oriental in May last year, shows that 44 percent of Chinese students chose the UK because of factors such as high university rankings, favorable language environment, and preferential visa and employment policies.

Meanwhile, Germany and France are among the top 10 destinations for Chinese students intending to study abroad, both accounting for 9 percent of the total, according to the report.

As Chinese families began to consider more affordable options for their children's education, the free tuition fee of higher education in Germany has attracted those focusing on the costs and value of studying abroad.

About 35.3 percent of international students who intended to study in Germany did so due to its tuition-free higher education, according to EDUBAO, a service provider for studying in Germany.

Apart from a few private and art universities, public universities in Germany generally do not charge tuition fees, which is a competitive advantage compared with countries like the UK and the US, it said.

Guo Dongxin is now studying computer sciences in Germany for master's degree. "The tuition fees and living costs are relatively low," Guo said.

Over half of Chinese students chose to study engineering-related courses, the traditional strong discipline in the country, in 2022, according to New Oriental's report.

For Guo, who enjoys attending opera and symphony performances, Germany's musical tradition is another reason to study in the country.

"Not only is it the hometown of many great composers, but its concert halls and opera houses are also world-class, which is easier to pursue these hobbies and further develop them," he said.

Compared with other countries, Germany has a friendlier employment policy for students overseas, granting an 18-month Job-Seeker Visa. More than 90 percent of students with master's degrees opted to get employment either in Germany or in China.

The higher education institutions in Germany particularly emphasize the integration of theory and practice, so the courses are highly practical, Guo said.

The neighboring country of France saw a 2 percentage point increase of intentions in 2023 as it has highlighted the internationalization of higher education and has introduced many English-taught programs.

Additionally, as one of the cradles of world higher education, France boasts a leading position in science and education, which has attracted a considerable number of Chinese students to study there, the report said.

As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, and the hosting of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, the country is expected to attract more Chinese students, said Wu Dan from another overseas education consultancy EIC Education Group.

More Chinese students intend to study business, science and engineering in France. The proportion of applications for business majors increased from 64.7 percent in 2019 to 76 percent in 2023, EIC's report shows.

Engineering and business school graduates found it easier to land a job. These schools' emphasis on practical education provided students opportunities to engage with industry elites and expand their professional networks, the report said.

In the Netherlands, from 2021 to 2022, China has become the only non-European country among its top ten sources for international students. In the 2022-23 academic year, the number of students from China reached 5,610, showing a 5.3 percent increase year-on-year.

The percentage of overseas transactions by Chinese students studying in the Netherlands and Ireland in 2022 has seen an increase for four consecutive years, indicating that Chinese students are returning to schools after the pandemic, the report of New Oriental said.

Law student Li Xuehua plans to continue further education in the Netherlands in September because the law school in Leiden University attracted her with its curriculum when she participated in a six-month exchange program during undergraduate studies in China. 

"I had the opportunity to delve into courses related to EU technology law, economic law and other relevant courses, which inspired me to further my studies in the Netherlands," the 22-year-old said.

The annual cost of a Master of Laws program in the Netherlands is approximately around 250,000 yuan ($34,504), which is cheaper than some other regions, she said.

"Moreover, the country's law schools provide numerous English-taught courses, particularly renowned for their prestige and academic rankings across the European continent," Li said, adding that there are plenty of options available when applying to an LLM program in the Netherlands.

Currently, international students graduating in the Netherlands are eligible to apply for a one-year Search Year visa, which allows them to seek employment after graduation. Li said many alumni have successfully sought desirable jobs during that year.

"I think the overall return on investment for studying in Europe is high, with less financial burden of studying abroad, and almost every European country implemented employment policies to support international students," she said.

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