The number of British students choosing to study in China has soared in the past year, latest figures reveal, leading experts to predict the country could overtake the UK as a top university destination within the next couple of years.
More than 397,000 international students went to China in 2015 - an increase of more than double within the past ten years – making it the third most popular destination for overseas students ahead of Canada, Germany and France.
Of those students, the number of UK residents seeking degrees or work exchanges in China has more than tripled within the same amount of time.
The trend is thought to be partly due to a drive by the Chinese government, as well as increasingly high education standards and scholarship programs for degree-seeking students.
A report led by Student.com forecasts China will overtake the UK’s position as second in the world for international study by 2020, eventually competing with the US for first place.
A separate study from the University of Liverpool suggests the number will continue to rise significantly in the run up to Brexit as British universities look east to set up new global partnerships.
China has become an increasingly attractive destination for young people looking to study business and economics-related degrees in particular, since the standard of teaching is considered to be high.
A British Council spokesperson in China said: “China is investing heavily in education and it has clearly established itself as a key player on the world’s economic and political stage”.
“Taking these factors into consideration, it is not surprising that China is emerging as an increasingly attractive study destination in parallel with growing awareness among students of the opportunities it offers in terms of gaining education and competitive experience that will be recognised by employers.”
China wants more foreign students to consider using its universities
The organisation has previously hailed the country as a top destination for young people hoping to boost their job prospects.
The University of Liverpool is one of several institutions around the globe to offer a study abroad scheme in the eastern capital.
Professor David Goodman, who leads the university’s China Studies programme, believes students benefit from the exposure to China and its culture, not least because of its growing economy and jobs market.
He said: “I’m not expecting everyone should become a Chinese speaker but everyone needs to know something about China and have a little exposure”.
“All kinds of students can benefit. You get great teaching, are taught in English; you get to travel.”
Students choosing to do a year in China come from all disciplines, he added.
“There are those you would expect – studying languages and social sciences - but also biologists, scientists, engineers and large numbers of Business Studies students.”
The Chinese government has invested heavily in encouraging international students within the past few years, with the number of scholarships made available having increased fivefold since 2006.
Last year, 40 per cent of all international students new to China received government sponsorship.