Working in China – Education Sector and Research Funding

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China boasts the biggest education scene in the world. Yet it's education system has set modernization and international understanding as the targets for its reform strategy. The goal is to continually increase the number of students and improve standards of education. The government is running various projects in order to strengthen their universities and colleges, such as Project 211, which aims to improve 100 of the top HEIs in the country.

Student numbers

There are nearly 20 million students in higher education in China. In one recent year alone, almost 10 million people took part in university entrance examinations. Even with this bustling study scene, China aims to increase access to higher education and to encourage students to come to China from abroad. Indeed, applications from overseas rise by 20% or more every year on average, with the number of international students in 2009 hitting about 240,000.

Universities in China

There are more than 2000 universities and colleges in China, categorised by public or private status. Public universities generally have higher entrance standards, which increases their rank and status. In a recent ranking of the world's top 100 Higher Education Institutions, though, not even one mainland Chinese university was listed.

The top 10 universities in China are:

  1. Peking University
  2. Tsinghua University
  3. Zhejiang University
  4. Fudan University
  5. Nanjing University
  6. Wuhan University
  7. Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  8. Beijing Normal University
  9. Sun Yat-sen University
  10. Renmin University of China

The universities of China are regularly assessed by independent assessors and ranked in terms of their specialist category. The tables for each category can be viewed here.

Student fees and admissions

The average annual tuition fee for a domestic student in China is 4,000 to 4,500 yuan, which equates to roughly 620 to 700 US dollars. For an overseas student, the fee rises to around $1700-3000 per annum, but can increase to over $6000 for some science based UG courses. Fees vary greatly according to the location, prestige and whims of the university.

Admission to Chinese universities is based on a students' score in the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (known as Gao Kao). Despite being a 'national' exam, each province runs its own unique exam. The students' overall score is an average of their score in all subjects. Generally, students sit the exam at the age of 17, in their final year of high school, and it lasts for nine hours. It's a notoriously intense period of study, and arguably one of the most demanding entrance exams in the world.

Research funding

Research funding from the government is on the increase in China, with the science research funding budget rising by 17% in the last two years. There are scores of government-led and university based research funding grants available. Some of the major grants and schemes are outlined here. The focus is clearly on scientific research through the Ministry of Science and Technology, but funding for other subjects is also available through such organisations as the China Scholarship Council. Other regional funding is available. 

The principle sources of research funding in Hong Kong are the University Grants Committee (UGC) and Research Grants Committee (RGC). Financial assistance is also available from government and private funds. 

Research funding for international students is also widely available through scholarship schemes such as those run by the China Scholarship Council. One of the most well known programs is The Great Wall Fellowship, which sponsors scholars to study in China. Scholarships generally cover tuition fees, as well as living expenses. More information can be found through the CUCAS website.

UK Universities in China

In recent years, the UK and China have built very strong academic links. Some UK universities have established branches in China which offer an experience which is comparable to studying in the UK. Other universities have made partnerships with Chinese HEI's in order to create a mutually beneficial study programme. Included in this would be such institutions as Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and The University of Nottingham's Ningbo branch.

Useful Links

List of Universities in China

Find out more about China's reform strategy

Read more about China's universities in a worldwide context

Research funding in Hong Kong

Higher Education in China – Wikipedia page

Careers in China

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