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International Students in China


As an important component of international exchanges, international students education has been given much attention by the Chinese government. Due to half-century’s painstaking efforts, an international students administration system, with distinct Chinese characteristics, has gradually come into shape. This system has helped to produce a number of talents in the fields of science, technology, education, diplomacy, management, etc. for many countries, especially developing countries, and played an active role in enhancing the political, diplomatic and economic ties between China and those countries as well as promoting the exchange of culture, education and personnel.

In 1950, China received the first group of 33 students from East European countries. By the end of 2000, China has received a total of 405,000 international students from more than 160 countries. Among them, Chinese Government Scholarship students numbered 88,000, whereas self-financed students reached 317,000.

Since 1978 when China initiated her reform and opening-up policy, international students education has entered into a new stage. From 1979 to 2000, the total number of international students studying in China reached 394,000 person-times. Since 1992, following the principles formulated at the Fourteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, China has been successful in maintaining social and political stability and the rapid growth of economy, and this in return gives rise to the number of international students. In 1996, the total of international students reached 41,000, an annual increase by 30%. The level of the international students was also greatly upgraded. Furthermore, the enrollment of self-financed students made a big stride and they have become the main stream of the international students.

Despite the outbreak of the financial crises in South-East Asia in 1998, the number of international students has remained stable. Though the number of students from Asia has decreased, the number of students from Europe, America and Africa has increased remarkably, amounting to 43,000.

In 2000 a total of 52,150 students of different kinds from 166 countries were accepted by 346 Chinese higher education institutions in 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities (Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR not included), of whom 35,671 were long-term students and 16,479 short-term students (studying for less than six months).

International students from Asia still top the list of all, totaled 39,034, accounting for 74.85%, while 5,818 students are from Europe, accounting for 11.16%; 5,144 from America, accounting for 9.86%; 1,388 from Africa, accounting for 2.66%, and 766 from Oceania, accounting for 1.47%. South Korea, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and Indonesia are the top five countries that have the largest numbers of international students in China, numbered 16,787, 13,806, 4,280, 1,947 and 1,270 respectively. Other countries, which have over 500 students in China, are France (891), Singapore (854), Russia (703), Australia (676), Thailand (667), Vietnam (647), Britain (601), Nepal (527), Italy (517), Canada (516), and Mongolia (510).

In terms of the academic levels, in 2000 the number of international students for academic qualification education reached 13,703, making up 38.41% of the total of the long-term students. Among them 228 students are on Chinese language programs, 10,224 undergraduates, 2,192 master’s degree students and 1,059 doctoral degree students. In addition, there were 21,342 general scholars and 626 senior scholars (with master’s degree or higher). In terms of disciplines, most of them are Liberal Arts students, numbering 44,689, followed by those in medicine (5,099, among whom 3,700 majoring in Chinese traditional medicine and 1,399 in Western medicine), engineering (1,740), sciences (403) and agronomy (219).

According to the education exchange agreements or plans reached between the Chinese government and the governments of other countries, China's Ministry of Education offered to 152 countries Chinese Government Scholarships in 2000, and 1,664 Chinese Government Scholarship students from 130 countries were admitted in Chinese higher education institutions in September 2000. Together with those already at colleges or universities, 5,362 Chinese Government Scholarship students from 148 countries were admitted, making up 10.28% of the total. Among the scholarship students, 2,648 are from Asia, accounting for 49.38%; 1,320 from Europe, 24.62%; 1,154 from Africa, 21.52%; 205 from America, 3.82% and 35 from Oceania, 0.65%. The number of scholarship students for academic qualification education reached 3,044, accounting for 56.77% of the total, among whom 396 doctoral degree students, an increase of 19.28% over 1999, 904 master’s degree students, an increase of 14.43% and 1,744 undergraduate students, an increase of 1.40%. Besides, there were 352 senior scholars, an increase of 11.04% and 1,966 general scholars, a decrease of 4.19%.

In 2000 another 148 students benefited from other scholarships provided by the Ministry of Education, including CHINA/UNESCO—the Great Wall Fellowship, Distinguished International Students Scholarship, Short-term Scholarship for Foreign Teachers of Chinese Language, HSK Winner Scholarship, and Chinese Cultural Research Fellowship.

In 2000 through various international exchange programs higher education institutions in China enrolled a total of 46, 788 self-financed students from 147 countries, an increase by 18.45% over 1999, accounting for 89.72% of the total number of international students. Among them, long-term students numbered 30,309 and short-term students numbered 16,479. Among the long-term students, those for academic qualification education numbered 10,659, an increase by 23.41% over 1999. Doctoral degree students numbered 663, master’s degree students 1,288, undergraduates 8,480 and Chinese language students 228. Besides, there were 274 senior scholars and 19,376 general scholars.

The top ten provinces (municipalities) with the largest numbers of international students are: Beijing (21,635), Shanghai (6,404), Tianjin (3,963), Jiangsu (3,118), Liaoning (2,448), Guangdong (1,930), Shandong (1,722), Jilin (1,659), Zhejiang (1,530), and Shanxi (1,181). The total number reached 45,590, accounting for 87.42% of the total in China.

In order to strength the management of international students education, to standardize and simplify application procedures and to promote further development, the Ministry of Education issued Rules on Foreign Students’ Enrollment in China’s Primary & Secondary Schools (Order No.4 by the Ministry of Education on January 21, 1999) and Rules on Foreign Students’ Enrollment in China’s Colleges & Universities (Order No.9 by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security). Furthermore, in order to make Chinese education known to the outside world and attract more international students to come to China to study, the China Scholarship Council (CSC) and Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE), directly under the Ministry of Education, also provide on-line enrollment and information consulting. Besides, Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) arranges for Chinese institutions to go abroad and hold education exhibitions.

In the future we will stick to the policy of “deepening reform, strengthening supervision, guaranteeing quality, and developing in a positive and reliable step”, aiming at expanding the size, upgrading the level, improving the teaching and living facilities and guaranteeing the educational quality. The Ministry of Education encourages the schools and institutions, if possible, to offer specialized courses with foreign languages as the medium of instruction, to cooperate with overseas educational institutions and to start international students education abroad in different ways. On the basis of the reform of school teaching system and logistic administration system, the Ministry of Education will do its best to create a better social environment for international students in cooperation with relevant departments to establish and better the social service and management patterns such as off-campus accommodation, work-study program and medical insurance.

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