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Number of Chinese students studying abroad 2008-2018

The number of Chinese students going abroad for study keeps increasing. In 2018, around 662,100 Chinese students left China to pursue overseas studies. The number increased by 11.74 percent compared to the previous year and makes China the largest country of origin for international students in the world.

Motivations for overseas study

In China, some of the best universities are public universities which get most of their support from the government. Although the number of institutions for higher education and students enrolled in universities inside China have increased significantly in the last few years, the pathways to gaining admission to good universities are still limited. For most people, the national exam “Gaokao” remains the only way to enter a good public university. Therefore, there are students studying abroad to avoid the national exam and to gain admission to a better ranked university. For some study programs, overseas institutions are better equipped and can provide more international academic environment. These qualities attract a lot of Chinese scholars. People who have studied abroad are considered to have a global insight and better language skills, which makes them more competitive in China’s recruitment market.

Financing for overseas study

Developed countries and regions are still the most popular destinations for Chinese students studying abroad. In some countries, Chinese students have already become an important funding source for their local universities. English-speaking countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are the leading destinations among them. The United States have since long attracted the largest share of Chinese students, but in recent years more and more Chinese students preferred to study in the United Kingdom instead. However, since students studying abroad are not all from extremely wealthy families, non-English speaking countries where the universities charge less in tuition fees are becoming increasingly popular. While most students from China were self-funded, relying on their parents' support, the number of students who were state scholarship recipients had been increasing over the years.

Number of students from China going abroad for study from 2008 to 2018

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Release date

October 2020



Survey time period

2008 to 2018

Supplementary notes

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

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Statistics on "Education in China"

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