The current situation of higher education in China
Firstly, China is currently publishing more research papers in scientific, technical, and medical fields than any other country; and this is due to the recent economic growth that has been going on in China since the end of the Seventies’, the period in which the country underwent a rapid industrialization process.
Even if China is still considered a developing country for its uneven distribution of wealth and low medium-income salaries, comparable to the ones in Cuba or the Dominican Republic, the industrialization of the last decades has improved the country. In fact, the so-called middle class has seen significant growth ever since; besides, this phenomenon is largely influenced by the quick urbanization of the country. While there are still some underprivileged rural settlements, the quality of life of most Chinese has undergone a significant improvement. This improvement has caused the rise in the number of graduates all over the country, whether coming from a university abroad or not.
Issues that China is currently facing
Despite the progress and the shift to the less-strict two-children policy, there are still issues such as demographic decline and the aging population. These problems are strictly related to the fact that some job sectors remain thus uncovered, for instance, there is a clear shortage of mid-level technicians. The latter is caused by the fact that, despite the growth of the life quality and thus, the education and the number of graduates, the skills still mismatch the needs of the local job market. Only the graduates from highly sought-after fields such as engineering or information technology have the certainty to find a job after they graduate; the others, unfortunately, suffer from unemployment by ending up in low-paying jobs or the informal sector.
International Chinese students
In any case, as long as abroad-studying Chinese students are regarded, they usually get prepared long before the beginning of their courses. There are bilingual schools preparing students for international studies and sometimes some students go directly to high school overseas to be prepared for the university years after. Chinese students are usually well-prepared, and they might have been helped by special recruitment agents who help students with submitting their admissions. Even if there are scholarships and, besides the fact that most of the population in China still has a low income, they are mainly self-funded.
Chinese students often see foreign education as a golden ticket. This might include the increase of the job perspective as well as the chance of immigrating to a western country. Nevertheless, in current times most of the Chinese students return to their native country. The slowing of the Chinese brain drain is mainly caused by the fact that there are now more well-paid jobs, especially in the STEM sector, and the local funding of research opportunities has recently seen significant growth. But, studying abroad does not represent a chance of a lifetime for everyone. The constant growth in Chinese students with international curricula has risen the competitiveness and lowered its importance; especially for graduates with no work experience who find it hard to find a job back in China.
The crisis of international Chinese students
This raises another point in the playground of the internationality of Chinese students, which is presumed to undergo a severe crisis. In fact, what is currently happening is that the rate of these international students is dropping, especially in the United States – the country that has for long been the number one destination for Chinese students. With the excuse of the theft of intellectual property and, in some cases, even espionage, the recent visa restrictions, and the Trump administration made it harder for Chinese students to enroll in American universities.
To the latter issue, the Chinese Ministry of Education has replied by discouraging students to go study in the United States. In fact, as China has gone through several improvements, some of which are listed above, it has also improved the quality of its higher education institutes. Therefore, more and more Chinese students are encouraged to choose domestic universities and the country is now becoming a relevant destination for international students itself. The modernization of education in China, the importance it plays in international trades, and the soft power it has on some underdeveloped or developing countries, are the main factors transforming China into an important destination for foreign students.
China as an international destination itself
Most international students in China come from Asian countries. South Korea is at the head of the list, mainly because China is its largest trading partner. Thailand also plays a great role in this scenario, mostly for the rapid growth of Chinese tourism in Thailand. A lot of students come also from Africa, for the trades between some African countries and China and the soft power the latter performs by the means of scholarships that are usually highly appreciated in Africa. A great number of students from the United States also go study in China, but mostly for short-term and undergraduate programs.
No matter the country, one of the reasons for studying in China is also creating a network of business contacts in the Chinese setting. This has seen a growth in English-taught programs in Chinese universities. After all, a lot of students tend to prefer an education of higher quality with lower university fees and living costs in a quickly developing country that plays an important role on the international scale.