Chinese International Students: New Destinations and Emerging Trends

As the clouds of the pandemic begin to clear, Chinese international students are once again embarking on their overseas education journey. This time, new countries have emerged on their map of study abroad destinations – including Australia, Germany, France, Singapore, and Japan.

On the other hand, a notable trend is that early-generation international students, now parents, are increasingly inclined to send their children abroad for education. Among families intending to study abroad, parents with overseas educational backgrounds are on the rise. In 2023, the proportion of such parents reached 16.5%, an increase of 3.1% year-on-year.

  • So, who are the main demographics driving this year’s surge in overseas studies?
  • Which countries have risen as popular destinations?
  • And how have the costs and expenses associated with studying abroad changed for families?

1. An Increase in Mature Students and Returnees

Recent data reveals that the majority of Chinese students studying abroad are pursuing their master’s and doctoral degrees, accounting for over 60%. According to the “2023 China Study Abroad White Paper” released by New Oriental, there has been a rising trend in the last five years of individuals aged 25 and above intending to study abroad at the postgraduate level.

This trend is no accident. With increasing academic and job pressures domestically, more students and professionals are choosing to further their education abroad, aiming to enhance their qualifications and future career prospects.

Chinese Parents are planning for their Child

Furthermore, more Chinese families are planning ahead, contemplating the idea of sending their children abroad for postgraduate education during their high school years.

Regarding the educational backgrounds of parents intending to send their children abroad, while most still hold bachelor’s degrees, there has been a consistent annual increase in those with overseas education. In fact, the proportion of such parents has reached 16.5%, marking a 3.1% growth since 2022.

This indicates a preference among parents with overseas education to send their children abroad to broaden their international horizons and strengthen their academic prowess.

In terms of financial backgrounds, students from average-income families have become the primary demographic for overseas studies since 2018, with an increasing trend toward popularization and normalization of overseas education.

And when looking at the professions of these parents, there has been a notable growth in those holding executive positions. In 2023, this group accounted for 27%, up by 6% from previous years.

2. Resurgence in Popularity for Australia and France, Rise of Eurasian Study Abroad Market

While the UK and the US remain the top study abroad destinations, many students are now considering Australia and France as their preferred choices.

Australia offers a unique blend of academic freedom and a vibrant research environment. The Group of Eight universities in Australia remain particularly popular due to their global rankings and diverse internship opportunities, further enhancing students’ future career prospects.

German and French institutions

Moreover, German and French institutions are witnessing a surge in their popularity among Chinese students. Germany, known for its world-class engineering and automobile industries, boasts renowned universities that are recognized globally. Additionally, the cost-effectiveness of studying in Germany, where most public universities do not charge tuition fees, adds to its appeal.

France, synonymous with romance and rich in artistic heritage, has emerged as a top choice, especially for students from metropolitan areas. With over 365,000 international students currently in France, doctoral students make up an impressive 42%.

Singapore & Japan

In the midst of the European countries gaining traction, Asian countries like Singapore and Japan are also seeing a steady increase in their allure for Chinese students.

Another major advantage of studying in Japan is that after graduation, there’s a significant chance to find good employment in Japan and easily secure a work visa. This is due to the current labor shortage in Japan, making the employment sector particularly welcoming to international students.

Furthermore, in terms of culture and local customs, Japan shares many similarities with China. Coupled with the close geographical distance, Chinese students find it easier to adapt to life in Japan.

  1. 70 000 $ for study abroad

Doubling of Study Abroad Costs, Budget Exceeds 500,000 RMB,

Over Half of the Students Believe They Can “Break Even”

Looking back over the past decade, what changes have occurred in the cost of studying abroad for a family?

First, let’s look at the USA. In 2013, the average cost of attending a private university in the U.S. was 250,000 – 300,000 RMB/year. By 2023, attending Columbia University as an undergraduate demands an annual tuition of 65,524 USD. Including miscellaneous expenses and living costs, the annual cost has surpassed 600,000 RMB, at least doubling from a decade ago.

Why universities are so popular among Chinese international Students?

Public universities are no exception. In 2013, the tuition for U.S. public universities ranged between 200,000 – 250,000 RMB/year. Today, for top-tier public universities like UC Berkeley, international students pay 44,008 USD/year in tuition. When adding living expenses, the total cost reaches 69,304 USD/year, translating to nearly 500,000 RMB annually, also doubling from 10 years ago.

Now, considering the UK: Ten years ago, undergraduate programs cost between 120,000 – 180,000 RMB/year, and masters programs were priced between 200,000 – 300,000 RMB/year. Currently, including tuition and living expenses, the yearly cost of studying in the UK can be between 450,000 – 500,000 RMB. This represents an annual increase of 150,000 – 380,000 RMB compared to a decade ago.


In Australia, while tuition increases aren’t as drastic, there’s still a noticeable difference of 50,000 – 100,000 RMB over the past decade.

Regarding budgeting, as tuition and living costs rise in popular destinations like the UK and the USA, Chinese families’ study abroad budgets have also steadily increased.

Recent surveys in 2023 reveal that Chinese families’ average study abroad budget is about 507,000 RMB. This budget varies based on the study level: the average budget for masters studies is 490,000 RMB, and for doctoral studies, it’s 480,000 RMB.

Study abraod a dream for Chinese students

According to the latest research data, 54% of postgraduate students believe their actual study abroad expenses match their expectations, while only 31% feel they’ve spent more than anticipated. This indicates that most families are rational and plan their budgets wisely.

On the topic of “breaking even” from study abroad investments, students this year are generally optimistic. 57% believe they can “break even” within five years of graduating. This demonstrates that, both in the short and long term, the initial effort and investment in studying abroad are worthwhile.

In conclusion:

China’s overseas education trend is diversifying. Beyond traditional destinations like the UK and the USA, more students are opting for countries with great potential such as Australia, Germany, France, and Japan.

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