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Key facts for international students in Nanjing

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Even 600 years back, Nanjing was a major centre of culture and education in China. Today, Nanjing is also a hub for research and transport and has two universities ranked by QS Top Universities, Nanjing University (joint 115th in the world) and Southeast University (501-550 in the world). Its long history is reflected in the century-old city walls, temples and mausoleums found in and around the city.

Why study in Nanjing?

The Green Lung of China

Nanjing is considered to be one of China’s most livable cities. The city is small by Chinese standards with ‘only’ 8 million people. Therefore, students can expect a more relaxed lifestyle than in the ‘northern capital’ of Beijing. On top of that, you’ll find a multitude of green spaces in Nanjing, such as lakes, parks and even small mountains. Best of all, early spring sees the International Plum Blossom Festival year after year where the hills of Nanjing are transformed in subtle pinks and purples.

History and Culture

History enthusiasts will enjoy Nanjing a lot. You can visit anything from the 600-year old city wall to landmarks from the imperial era, such as Chaotian Palace or Linggu Temple. One of Nanjing’s proudest landmarks is Zifeng Tower, also called Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum. The Nanjing Massacre Memorial is also worth a visit even though it tells a rather morbid history.

Nanjing and education

Nanjing has been a major center for education for over 1,700 years. The city was the capital of multiple dynasties, the two most notable being the Southern Tang dynasty (AD 937–976) and the Ming dynasty (AD 1368 – 1644). That’s why Nanjing has been a historic center of education in China with several prestigious schools and institutions. Today, Nanjing still has a large range of prestigious higher education institutions and research institutes as well as a large student population. Even though most of the programs are held in Mandarin, there are various universities offering English-taught courses, starting with the Nanjing university.

The academic environment in Nanjing

Due to the lower tuition fees and cost of living than in Beijing and Shanghai, Nanjing ranks 80th in the Affordability category in the Best Student Cities index. This makes the city a popular destination for international students.

It has also become a lot easier to international students to secure a work visa after graduating from a Chinese university. This allows foreign professionals to remain in China for work and career development. Before 2017, it was a lot harder to obtain a Chinese work visa after graduating from a university.

Education in China is quite hierarchical requiring students to formally address the teachers using ‘professor’ or 老师 (laoshi) in Mandarin. Depending on the major and type of school you are studying at, you will either be part of a fixed group of students with the same schedule or attend your classes individually each lecture. Professors hold exams and sometimes projects to calculate the grades. The number of projects and exams can vary depending on the professor.

The teaching language in Nanjing

The majority of programs at universities in China are held in Mandarin. However, there are more and more English-taught programs being put into place across the country. If you aim at taking courses in Chinese, you will be required to take a Chinese fluency examination to prove your language skills. You will need to pass at least level 4 of the international HSK test in order to apply for regular courses. In case you don’t have any knowledge of the Chinese language, universities will offer you a one-year intensive Chinese language course.

Nanjing’s main universities

Nanjing University (NJU)

Located in China’s old capital of six dynasties, Nanjing University was established in 1902 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in the country. It also played a great role in establishing the modern Chinese educational system, as it was the first university to combine education and research in the country.

The university counts 28 schools on three campuses. According to the QS World University Rankings, NJU was ranked 114th overall and 42nd in the field of Engineering in 2016.
Moreover, the university counts a faculty body of over 2,400 including 617 international staff. Nanjing University has over 32,000 students and nearly 3,000 international students, 55% of which are undergrads. The government heavily supports Nanjing University both under Project 211 (a program aimed at raising the research standards of high-level universities) and Project 985 (focusing on becoming world-renowned universities).

You can find more information regarding admissions at the NJU: https://www.nju.edu.cn/EN/

Southeast University (SEU)

One of the national key universities administered directly under the Central Government and the Ministry of Education of China, SEU has 3 campuses across Nanjing. Southeast University was in 2010 among the top 20 research universities in China and it is placed in the top 550 of the world’s top universities and in the top 150 in the field of Architecture in 2016 as per QS University Ranking.

The school welcomes more than 32,000 students, including more than 1,400 international students. Moreover, there are over 2,700 faculty members with 168 foreign staff leading 64 undergraduate programs, 206 master programs, 109 doctoral programs, as well as 15 postdoctoral research sites. Southeast University was also selected for both Project 985 and Project 211, to be funded by the government in order to become a well-known international university.
Don’t hesitate to find out more directly at http://www.seu.ac.bd/

Tuition Fees and Scholarships in Nanjing

Nanjing University – average tuition fees between RMB 19,000 and RMB 40,000 Per Year

Southeast University – average tuition fees between RMB 16,000 and RMB 32,000 Per Year

The average tuition fees at Chinese universities range between 3,300 and 10,000 USD per year. Bachelor students studying at Nanjing University pay between RMB 19,000 and RMB 40,000 per year depending on their major. Students at Southeast University pay slightly less per year, between RMB 16,000 and RMB 32,000.

There are various scholarships for foreign students in China. For instance, there is a scholarship specifically aimed at EU students looking to gain funding to study at a university in China. On top of that, The Great Wall Program was created to support students from developing countries who are looking to come to China and study for a year at any degree level. Doctorate students, as well as applicants from other Asian and worldwide countries, will also have access to other scholarships.

Find more information here: http://www.chinamission.be/eng/zglx/t1340962.htm

Entry conditions 

China has a high quota on international enrolment making it relatively easy to get accepted onto a Chinese university. Nonetheless, international students need to fulfil certain requirements in order to start a program at a university in China.

There are several documents required in order to enrol, for example a criminal background check and a certificate from your school at home if you are planning on transferring. Master students also need to provide a copy of their transcripts and recommendation letters. Chinese language proficiency of at least level 4 of the international HSK proficiency exam is required in order to start a program. For students without or insufficient Mandarin language skills, universities offer free language classes taking anywhere from 6 months to a whole year. At the end of the intensive language course, the students take the HSK exam and need to pass level 4 to be able to start their regular classes.

Below are the application documents for Nanjing University:
1. An application Form.
2. High school graduation certificate and full transcript.
3. Copy of HSK Score Report.
4. One copy of passport and two passport-size photos.
5. Other documents which could demonstrate the student comprehensive abilities, such as award or prize certificate.

Medical Insurance

Foreign students in China are required to purchase both medical insurance and personal accidental death and injury insurance before or after arrival in China. Moreover, those who are planning on staying in China for over 1 year have to undergo a physical examination. This examination has to be done at a public hospital in your home country one month before leaving for China.

Living in Nanjing

Nanjing is a great place to study. The city of over 8 million offers both big city vibe with an authentic Chinese experience. Less Westernized than Beijing and Shanghai, the cost of living in Nanjing is also a lot more affordable than in China’s favorite two cities. On top of that, the majority of scholarships include housing at dormitories on campus.

Student housing

While it is most common for students to live on campus in foreign student dorms, there are many students who choose to live off campus in a shared apartment with fellow students upon permission of the school. You can find rooms for EUR 150 to 290 per month. Typically, the university can help you find off-campus apartments or you can simply search for a room independently through various Facebook groups. The website cn.student.com is also a useful resource for student housing in China.

Working in Nanjing

The Chinese government has recently realized plans to further persuade international students to remain in China by implementing new policies that allow foreign students to take on internships, part-time jobs and even to start their own businesses in China after graduating, something that has been rather difficult in the past.

China has realized the great advantages of international graduates remaining in the country for work and implemented new regulations to make it easier to stay and work in China. The new regulations were introduced in January 2017 and state that foreign graduates with a master’s degree or above from a university in China can apply for work visas straight away within one year of graduating.

The following eligibility requirements apply:

  • Graduate degree or higher from a Chinese or reputable overseas university, graduation within one year
  • At least 18 years old
  • Clean criminal record
  • Average grade of at least 80 on a 100-point scale and no disciplinary record
  • Degree in field related to proposed work in China
  • A confirmed job offer from a company in China
  • A salary offer that is not less than standard local wages for the position
  • A valid passport

Undergrads are unable to apply for work visa’s straight away and need to adhere to the previous regulations that require a minimum of 2 year’s work experience in order to secure a work visa in China.

Travel and Entertainment in Nanjing

Nanjing’s convenient location just outside of Shanghai in the east of China is ideal to do some traveling in your free time. Besides Shanghai, the famous cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou are also very close and easily accessible by train or bus. However, you don’t need to travel far to have a good time. Especially Nanjing’s Confucius Temple area is a must-visit in the evenings. The area is illuminated by hundreds of beautiful lanterns and offers the opportunity for shopping and trying local food at the many restaurants.

Local meals every student should taste once in their life


Nanjing and the entire province of Jiangsu are popular for its flavorful cuisine. When in Nanjing, you must absolutely try Tangbao (steamed dumplings), Shredded tofu in chicken broth, as well as sesame pancakes. Jiangsu cuisine is known for the soft texture of its dishes, as well as the usage of soup to improve flavor. A great place for trying local Nanjing and Jiangsu dishes is the Confucius Temple area.

General advice

It is a lot easier to get around in China when you speak the language. If you have the chance to study some Chinese before moving abroad, it would be highly advisable. However, if you come to China with no knowledge in Mandarin whatsoever, do not worry. Studying Chinese at university and being able to practice the new learned language on a daily basis will quickly improve your language skills.

Please note that foreign students should not openly criticize the Chinese government. Also remember that many social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and also Google are not accessible in China. However, you can access them using a program called VPN that you should install before leaving your country.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.
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