Each year a larger share of China’s youth is pursuing higher education outside the nation’s borders. Although this trend started as a quest for the prestige that came with degrees from certain foreign institutions like the Ivy Leagues, Oxford or Cambridge University, it has now grown to encompass almost any institution in the developed world.
The boom in study in America is especially striking. More than 110,000 students from China were enrolled as undergraduates at American universities in the academic year of 2013-14, eleven times as many as in 2006-07. They now account for 30% of all foreign undergraduates. By comparison, the number of Chinese undergraduates in the United Kingdom less than doubled over the same period, to 35,000 (see chart). Chinese students are not only going to the United States and Britain, but across the world as a whole. Since at least 2009 China has provided the most foreign students to France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Japan and South Korea. At the end of 2013 nearly 1.1m Chinese were studying abroad, according to the Ministry of Education—more than three times as many as a decade earlier.
The recent economic rise of China can be pointed as one of the reasons for this rise in the proportion of Chinese students going abroad and to America in particular. There are now more Chinese families that are able to bear the cost of foreign education and all the entrance exams like the SAT and ACT that most American schools require. China’s undeveloped system of higher education can also be blamed. Demand for education beyond the compulsory nine years has been constantly growing (in 2011 nearly 25m Chinese were enrolled in senior secondary school). However, the quality of instruction is poor at all but a handful of universities, where a total of just a few thousand places are available each year.
Additionally, I can personally understand the lure studying in the US has for Chinese students. While in most nations students live in their parent’s house and commute to go to class, students in america leave in college campuses. This fact allows for a very unique learning environment, in which students not only learn how to become professionals in a certain field, but also how to become independent adults.