5 things to know before choosing a university in China

Would you stay in China to study for a bachelor’s degree? Would your university be recognized by international standards and schools abroad? Would you enjoy connecting with your classmates? Could you apply for a scholarship?

I have graduated from 3 different universities in China. Yet when I came to China for the first time, everything was prearranged for me. I had a great uni to learn Chinese, but that uni was terrible at training professionals on their bachelor’s. 

All these questions are often asked by my friends who would like to study in this fascinating country. So let me try and give you some tips about education in China for foreign students.

1. Reputation

The first question you should be asking is – will my college degree be recognized by international institutions and employers in my home country? Not all people know that the Chinese standard of education is not the international standard. But fear not, there is a list of 116 Universities in China that are involved in the so called Project 211, a project for National Key Universities and colleges initiated in 1995 by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, that was created with the idea of increasing Chinese standards so they can match their western counterparts. So go ahead and check if your dream uni is on that list.

2. Scholarships 

Before you pay that massive bill, you should know that the Chinese government offers a great deal of assistance to foreign students. This assistance comes in the form of Government scholarships, Municipal scholarships, and College Scholarships, and other educational awards. The Shanghai Municipal Scholarship, Confucius institution scholarship, and the Jiaotong University Scholarship are definitely worth looking into.

You will probably need to have all your official papers (high-school diplomas) translated into Chinese and stamped by a legal notary, but it will definitely be worth your while.

There are a few tricks on how to fill in the papers for better results, and which scholarship is “easier” to obtain, and even how to switch from a paid deal to a sponsored one. I have picked up 2 degrees in China and both of them on scholarships, which was not particularly difficult.

If you are interested in how it’s all done, let me know in the comments – I’ll be happy to help!

3. Bachelor’s 4+1

The Chinese bachelor is a 4 year program, and the masters is 2 (or 1.5 depending on the course). I won’t talk about doctorates, as it’s not one I have studied for.

But if you have never been to China, you are probably wondering, will I study in Chinese? The answer is: most likely, yes, unless you are applying to a campus of a western college. You should also keep in mind that during your first year you will only learn the language. Now scholarship providers know this and they offer to pay for that extra year as well!

4. International colleges 

As I mentioned earlier, studying in English is an option in China. The only problem is that it’s twice as expensive. But on the plus side, your diploma will be so much more respected.

I am not referring to the double degree here (which also exist in the best Chinese universities), but to a fully international diploma, just like one you would find in England or the USA.

The most popular international colleges in China are: Nottingham, NYU campus Shanghai, IFA Paris campus Shanghai, and Syracuse University Beijing.

5. Environment

People often ask me, where do you like better: Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou? When you go to study, the name and reputation of the school will be one of your deciding factors. But what if you have more or less the same schools, what will be the deciding factor then? First of all, living costs in Shanghai are the most expensive in China (it’s the 11th most expensive city in the world). The rent in Beijing will be more expensive than Shanghai though, even if your daily living expenses are less. Guangzhou has the best weather, and a cheaper cost of living, but the levels of mandarin are lower compared with other cities. Also, winters in Beijing are colder, but apartments have central heating. Shanghai is mostly cold both inside and out, and only a few places have heating, which will be 30% more expensive to rent out.

To give you some rough figures, rent in Shanghai for a 1 bedroom apartment in a compound with an elevator will be 6 to 11k (older – newer) Beijing 7.5 to 13 k, and Guangzhou 4 to 8 k (correct me if I’m wrong about Guangzhou)

Life in Shanghai is the most foreign friendly out of all the cities in China. There are tons of events for foreigners, as well as the biggest choice of foreign restaurants, bakeries, sports coaches, charity organizations, and even foreign doctors. In Shanghai you will see foreigners everywhere all the time.

Beijing is Shanghai divided by three. The foreign community is smaller (only seen in some areas), with fewer activities to choose from, but more chances to localize. Local people are more relaxed than in the hectic South, and you may meet many local artists or movie professionals, hippies and rock musicians.

The South of China is the most ‘local’, but it has a great influence from Hong Kong. I have not lived there myself, so I won’t go in to details about the lifestyle for foreigners. If any of you have anything to add about living in any of the cities mentioned above, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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