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Study in China

Higher Education in China

Higher Education in China

China has an over 2,000 higher education institutions all over the country, and some of Asia’s and the world’s top universities belong to China, such as Tsinghua University and Peking University in Beijing. While the country is known to be the top country sending students to study overseas, it is also a known fact that the country has been wooing international students to come and study in the country. According to the Ministry of Education of China, in 2014, there were 377,054 international students in the country, and this is growing year by year.

The Chinese government plays a vital role in improving the education sector in the country. Over the years, it has been very active and encouraging in the development of the country’s higher education standing, both in quantity and quality. With this mission, the government has poured large amounts of funding to certain universities to help improve facilities, build research centers, attract world-renowned scholars and faculties, among other developments.

A. Higher Education Institutions in China

The universities in China are either state-owned or non-government (private) institution:

Regular Institutions Independent Institutions Vocational Institutions Adult Institutions

Institutions run by the central ministries and agencies, as well as local authorities.

These “traditional” and “typical” HEIs help students prepare for examinations for a recognised degree under the government, as well as training to improve their skills that are beneficial to the Chinese economy

Also known as duli xueyuan

These institutions do not receive any government funding; they work with other well-known universities, private institutions, and the business sector – self-funding, their tuition fee is more expensive 

Offer all levels of degrees (Bachelor, Master and PhD), but use both the theoretical framework and practical skills (applied science) during studies. 

Includes the institutions focusing on:

Administrative Colleges: adult middle school and higher education programmes for government officers

Correspondence Departments and Attached Evening Colleges: part-time adult higher education programmes through correspondence and attached evening colleges

Employees’ Colleges: offers credentials to staff/ or workers

Independent Self-Study Examinations: the only form of higher education in China with an entirely open admissions policy

Radio and Television Universities: multimedia courses through radio, television, print, audio-visual materials and computer networks on a nationwide basis

Spare-time Universities: sub-degree level programmes undertaken in the students’ spare time


Private Higher Education Institutions
  • These institutions are not administered by local, state, or national government; source of income depends on students
  • While more expensive than public schools, students can get scholarship from these institutions
  • There are currently 300 private HEIs in Chin
Government Initiatives

Key projects have also been initiated by the Chinese government to raise the colleges and universities to world-class standards. In the mid-1990s, the central government launched these two programmes – investing billions of dollars – to improve the quality and make the Chinese higher education competitive worldwide.

  • Project 211: Together with the State Council and the Department of Finance, the Ministry of Education of China co-issued this in 1995, aiming to strengthen the selected HEI and key disciplines. See here the current universities in China which are part of this group.

Did you know? The number 211 comes from the project’s slogan – For the 21st century, to manage 100 universities successfully (面向21纪,办100所高校) with 100 as the estimated number of participating universities.  

  • Project 985: Launched in 1998 by the State Council and the Ministry of Education of China, this project aims to build world-class universities in China. There were 39 universities from Project 211 that received additional funding (USD40.4 billion or CNY264.9 billion) from the central government, on top of the budget (USD28.4 billion or CNY186.3 billion) from the local government to improve their research centres, facilities, hold international conferences, attract world-renowned faculty and staff, and assist Chinese faculty to attend conferences overseas.
  • Also, the Project 985 has produced the C9 League – the Chinese version of the US Ivy League. With these projects in place, the number of colleges and universities have doubled in the last decade, some of which have ranked as the best in the world for science and math.

Universities in China included in Project 985 are (in bold are the C9 schools):

  • Peking University
  • Tsinghua University
  • Fudan University
  • Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Nanjing University
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • University of Science and Technology of China
  • Xi'an Jiaotong University
  • Zhejiang University
  • Beijing Institute of Technology
  • Beijing Normal University
  • Beihang University
  • Central South University
  • Minzu University of China
  • Renmin University of China
  • China Agricultural University
  • Chongqing University
  • Dalian University of Technology
  • East China Normal University
  • Huazhong University of Science and Technology
  • Hunan University
  • Jilin University
  • Lanzhou University
  • Nankai University
  • Northwestern Polytechnical University
  • Northeastern University
  • Northwest A&F University
  • Ocean University of China
  • Southeast University
  • Shandong University
  • Sichuan University
  • South China University of Technology
  • Sun Yat-sen University
  • Tianjin University
  • Tongji University
  • University of Electronic Science and Technology of China
  • Wuhan University
  • Xiamen University
  • National University of Defense Technology 

Did you know? The name Project 985 was derived from the date when this project was announced (May 1998 – 98/5)

B. Pathway to Studying in China

The length of your study depends on the path you wish to take. Here’s a basic duration of study in China

C. Top Institutions in China

Several universities in China are present in the rankings of top 300 universities in the world, and in particular, these universities rank highly in Asia and BRIC’s top rankings as well. The top 20 universities in China are as follows:

D. After Study Opportunities in China

When you decide to stay longer in the country because you want to continue your study, you can go to the embassy and apply for an extension of your study visa. Most of the time it will not be a problem, as long as you have a university declaration as proof.

But if you want to stay longer because you got a job offered, different rules apply. In this case, you need to apply for a work visa called Visa Z, and both the employer and you need to meet the conditions.  Check out the official Chinese government website for more information and the requirements for applying for a work visa, or any other visa that is not a student visa.