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Number of students at colleges and universities in China 2009-2019

In 2019, around 30.32 million undergraduate students were enrolled in degree programs at public colleges and universities in China. 17.51 million of them were studying in bachelor's degree programs, while the other 12.81 million were enrolled in more practically oriented short-cycle degree programs. The number of graduates from these programs reached around 7.6 million in 2019. On a postgraduate level, there were more than 2.86 million master's and doctor's degree students studying at public institutions in China that year.

Development of enrollment figures

Since the beginning of the reform era in 1979, the number of students enrolled at institutions of tertiary education in China has increased tremendously. While the gross enrollment rate in tertiary education ranged at only 3.4 percent in 1990, it reached more than 51 percent of related age groups in 2019. This is the result of a thorough governmental plan aimed at increasing the number of specialists China needed for its economic development. The quality of university education in China also increased a lot throughout these years. Nowadays, two Chinese institutions, Tsinghua University and Peking University, regularly reach the highest positions in international university rankings, while a broad group of institutions are continuously improving into the midfield of international universities. However, competition for admission to the elite universities is fierce and the quality of many lower level colleges is not comparable to higher international standards.

Types of tertiary education in China

China generally differentiates between universities, providing four-year bachelor, master and doctorate programs, and higher vocational colleges, providing more practically oriented three-year, short-cycle degree programs. In addition, it is possible to obtain degrees at public institutes for adult education and from online and self-learning courses provided by public institutions. The number of students enrolled in degree programs at all different levels of public tertiary education in China reached about 40 million in 2019. In addition to public institutions, there is also a growing number of students enrolled at private colleges and universities. However, these private institutions are generally not as esteemed and work on a lower level than their public counterparts.

Number of undergraduate students enrolled at public colleges and universities in China from 2009 to 2019

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Release date

October 2020



Survey time period

2009 to 2019

Supplementary notes

The values have been rounded to provide a better understanding of the statistic.

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Statistics on "Tertiary education in China"

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