As Chinese outsource higher education, students gain experience abroad

By Erin Roman


As the Chinese economy grows students take advantage of opportunities to study abroad in order to gain world experience that will help them reach their goals.

A large part of the Chinese Dream is obtaining a high position at a reputable company. Chinese students achieve this by getting a strong education, which often involves studying in America or Europe.

According to the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit international education and training organization, China is the leading place of origin for students coming to the United States to study.

IIE reported that 157,558 Chinese students studied in the United States during the 2010-2011 academic year. The majority of these students, 48.8 percent, studied at the graduate level and 36.2 percent at the undergraduate level.

The number of students taking the gaokao test, China’s standardized college-entrance exam, has been decreasing since 2008. This downward trend in enrollment is expected to last until 2018, said Ma Yan, a senior consultant for MyCos, a Beijing-based higher education consulting firm.

The number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has significantly increased in the past decade. Graphic from Chinese Ministry of Education

Additionally, the Educational Testing Services reported a 19 percent increase in the number of Chinese student who took the TOEFL in 2011 compared to the previous year. There has also been a significant increase in Chinese students taking the SAT. Both tests are needed for admission to any U.S. college or university.

Many students also plan to attend graduate school in the United States. Yilun Hao graduated from the University of Beijing with a degree in tourism management and plans to go to the United States to get her MBA.

“It takes five years in China to get a graduate degree,” Hao said. “In the United states it only takes two years.”

Hao studied at Rowand University in New Jersey as an exchange student during her undergraduate years and would like to go back to the United States.

“I plan to go to the west coast to get my MBA,” she said.

Hao is looking at the University of California and Arizona State University as possible graduate-school choices.

In 2011, California ranked first in the United States for number of foreign students in the state. Of the 96,535 foreign students, 20.8% of them were from China. In Arizona, 25 percent of the foreign students were Chinese and Arizona State University has the highest percentage of foreign students when compared to the other institutions in the state.

According to ASU’s cost of attendance estimator, a student pursuing their MBA will spend about $36,500 per year, which is 233,600 RMB. This includes housing expenses.

“Driving the demand among Chinese to study abroad is a shortage of places on high-quality degree courses at home and the pressure to have an overseas qualification when chasing jobs,” said Rahul Choudaha, associate director of the New York-based World Education Services, in an article published by the BBC.

Hao believes there will be more opportunities available to her in China if she receives her MBA from an American institution.

Zuian Yang, an undergraduate student at Fudan University in Shanghai, said that Chinese students learn a different way of thinking and gain independence when they go abroad.

Yang said she would like to study abroad in the future. Her dream is to work on Wall Street in New York City, but if she does not achieve her goal, she will most likely return to China to find a job.

“In China, the economy is booming and both students and their parents have the money and are willing to invest it in education,” said Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor at IIE, in an article published by NBC.

Hao said her parents pushed her to go to America as an exchange student and now compel her to return for graduate school.

“The one child policy is good for the Chinese because they can afford to send their child abroad,” Hao said.

Still, some students and their families have reservations about going abroad to study.

“My parents don’t want me to go to America because they think it is dangerous,” Shengyuan Li said. “They also don’t want me to live so far away from them.”

Li said that employers like applicants with a broad education, however they look strongly at an individual’s skills and experiences even if they remain in China.

Many students who expressed interest in going abroad said they would return to China when they finished their studies or shortly after.

“I want to broaden my horizons,” said Yu Wang, a student at Fudan University. “But I would come back to China because it is my home.”


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