Studying in China

Updated 2019-03-28 07:37

China offers opportunities not only for seasoned professionals and businessmen but also those wishing to acquire new skills. In fact, if you want to get an early start on taking part in the country's booming economy, studying at one of China's top-ranking universities would be a great step in that direction. Whether you are eager to take a short Chinese language course or enrol in a full-time study program at one of the country's famous universities, here are a few guidelines on the steps you have to follow.

To study in China, you will need to apply for a Student Visa. There are currently two types of student visas issued to foreigners: X1 is issued to those who plan to enrol in study programs longer than six months, and X2 is issued to those staying for less than six months.

How to apply for a student visa

You can submit your visa application together with the supporting documents at the Chinese VISA Application Service Centre or the Chinese Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

First, make sure that the education establishment you are applying to has the right to offer courses to foreign nationals. If your application is successful, the establishment will send you an admission letter as well as JW201 or JW202 form to complete. These documents will need to be submitted together with your application at the Embassy. You will also need to present the following supporting documents:

  • Original passport valid for at least six months;
  • passport-size photograph;
  • copy of the acceptance letter (together with the original);
  • proof of legal status in the country you are applying from; and
  • evidence of your flights and arranged accommodation.

For post-graduate education programs, you will also be asked to present photocopies of your diplomas and academic transcripts, translated into Chinese.

Once your visa is approved, you will need to take a series of medical examinations. Depending on the educational establishment you plan to study at, you may be asked to do the medical check in your home country or upon arrival in China. It is usually recommended to do the medical examination once you arrive in China, to make sure it's completed in the right format. Moreover, some universities may arrange for groups of students to go through the check together. Your medical certificate is valid for six months

Those with an X1 Visa will need to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit within 30 days upon arriving in China. The permit is typically issued for the minimum period of 6 months and a maximum of 5 years.

Some Chinese universities offer tuition in English. However, if you wish to take multidisciplinary courses in Chinese, you must pass the international test of Mandarin, also known as HSK. Sessions of examination for the HSK are held both in China and in many different countries. For HSK examination dates in your area, please refer to the Chinese Consulate or Embassy in your country.

Scholarship schemes are available to international students in China. Please contact your home university, the embassy or consulate of China or the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to find out more information about government-sponsored programmes and scholarships available.


You are not allowed to work on a student visa. Internship options may be available (check with your school/university) as well as volunteering.

The list of required documents may vary depending on your country of residence and the study program you are applying for. Contact your Chinese Embassy for an updated list of documents needed before the appointment.

Top universities

China is home to over 2,900 colleges and universities, and some of them rank very highly in the international academic environment. The country's best universities that earned top spots in the list of best universities internationally according to QS World University Rankings in 2019 include:

  • Tsinghua University, Beijing, 17th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • Peking University, Beijing, 30th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • Fudan University, Shanghai, 44th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 59th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • Zhejiang University, 68th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • University of Science and Technology of China, Anhui, 98th in 2019 QS World University Rankings
  • Nanjing University, 122nd in 2019 QS World University Rankings

There are also options to study in smaller cities and towns in China, which offer less expensive study alternatives: both in terms of tuition fees and cost of living. China's popular university cities include Dalian, Wuhan, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and others.

Study culture

Education in China is quite hierarchical requiring students to formally address the teachers using 'professor' or è€å¸ (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.

Attendance is a crucial factor in both your academic success and the ability to keep your student visa. Note that Chinese universities are required to submit attendance records of international students to the Bureau of Immigration. Low attendance records may lead to the cancellation of your student visa or inability to extend it.

Teaching language

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 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.

Tuition fees and scholarships

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 international students in China. For instance, there is a scholarship aimed explicitly 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.

Useful links:

Student visa to China
China Scholarship Council
Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange

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