Studying in Beijing

Updated 2022-09-17 19:51

China's capital is not only the second largest city in the country (after Shanghai) but also a leading hub in the entire Asian continent. Beijing seems to have it all: historic attractions, shopping hubs, mega entertainment facilities, and cultural offerings. Due to China's economic rise in the last decades, it's no surprise that students are eager to study in Beijing.

Why move to Beijing?

Beijing is home to some of the world's most fascinating cultural and historic sites, including the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. On top of that, the city headquarters innovative young Chinese companies, as well as leading international companies setting up offices in Beijing to be a part of the economic miracle in the east, whether it's Siemens, Panasonic, or Ford Motor Company. This combination makes Beijing a great location to study in. China's two most prestigious universities are Tsinghua University (17th) and Peking University (30th), and both are based in Beijing. The city's Beijing Normal University, Beihang University and Renmin (People's) University of China are also within the world's top 500 as per the QS University Ranking of the world's top universities.

Most of China's 20 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Beijing and are always looking for motivated international employees who understand both Chinese and foreign markets. Companies such as Sinopec, Bank of China and SAIC Motor prefer to hire from prestigious universities in Beijing and offer attractive career development programs to eager candidates.

Due to China's long history and emphasis on scholars, Beijing has been a student city for centuries. Anyone who wanted to make something of their lives wanted to pursue a career as a scholar at court in Beijing. You can still visit some of the ancient academies today and feel the Confucian spirit. Modern Beijing also has a lot to offer to its students.

The academic environment in Beijing

China is home to over 400,000 international students, most of whom are studying in Beijing. The city ranks the highest in the Employer Activity category of the QS Best Student Cities index. This means Beijing is an excellent place if you are seeking to start an international career after graduating.

The Chinese government has undertaken various means to persuade international students further to remain in China by issuing new policies allowing international students to take on internships, part-time jobs, and even start their own businesses, something that has been rather difficult in the past.

Universities in Beijing

Beijing is home to two of the world's top 50 universities and several others in the top 500. Moreover, Beijing is currently in 26th place in the QS Best Student Cities in 2018 in the Employer Activity category, with excellent post-graduate employment opportunities with major companies in China as well as abroad.

Tsinghua University

Located in the former imperial gardens of the Qing Dynasty, Tsinghua University is hedged between several historic sites in northwest Beijing. The school was founded in 1911 and has become one of the most renowned in the country.

The school has 14 schools with 56 departments, including faculties in law, medicine, history, engineering, science, management, economics, philosophy and art. According to the QS World University Rankings of 2023, THU was ranked 14th overall.

Moreover, the university counts a faculty body of 4,000, with over 1100 professors and 1000 associate professors. Tsinghua University is also dedicated to research and innovation, employing 32 members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and 26 members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Annual tuition fees for international Bachelor's degree programs at Tsinghua University range from RMB 30,000 to RMB 50,000.

Peking University

The university is situated close to the Yuang Ming Gardens and the famous Summer Palace in the western suburbs of Beijing. Established in 1898, Peking University is the first modern national university established in China. As per the QS University Ranking of 2023, it was placed 12th among the world's top universities.

The university counts 30 colleges and 12 departments, including 93 specialties for undergrad students, 199 specializations for Master's students, 173 specialties for Doctor students, and even two specialties for a double Bachelor.

On top of that, Peking University puts great emphasis on applied sciences, with currently 216 research centers and institutes, including two national engineering research facilities.

Each year, around 2,000 international students coming from all over the world enroll at Peking University. Peking University has a joint undergraduate program with Yale University in place, as well as more partnerships with notable schools, including the London School of Economics, Waseda University, Seoul National University, the University of Tokyo, and the Freie Universität Berlin. Don't hesitate to find out more directly on the university's website.

Annual tuition fees for international Bachelor's degree programs at Peking University range from RMB 26,000 to RMB 30,000.

Beijing Normal University

Beijing Normal University specializes in education sciences, teacher education and basic learning in arts and the sciences. It was founded in 1902 and is one of the most renowned schools in China. The school has a student body of around 22,000 students, made up of 8,900 undergrad students, 11,300 graduate students and 1,800 international students from all corners of the world.

The school is incredibly proud of its vast library, counting over 4.1 million volumes and around 17,000 GB of digital resources. Beijing Normal University has one faculty with two departments in 22 colleges and 36 research centers. According to the QS World University Rankings of 2023, Beijing Normal University was ranked 262nd overall. Tuition fees at Beijing Normal University range from RMB 24,000 to RMB 32,000 per year.

Beihang University

Previously known as Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Beihang University is one of China's foremost research universities, heavily supported by the Chinese government. The university counts a student body of around 30,000 in 28 colleges on two campuses in Beijing. More than 1,700 international students from over 90 countries worldwide enroll in programs at Beihang University each year.

Tuition fees at the university start from RMB 26,000 per year for English language programs. Check out the Beihang University website for more information.

How to apply for a student visa to China?

To apply for a student visa to China, 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 for foreign nationals. If your application is successful, the establishment will send you an admission letter and a JW201 or JW202 form to complete.

Keep these documents safe as you will need to submit them 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 a 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 of arriving in China. The permit is typically issued for a minimum period of 6 months and a maximum of 5 years.


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.

The teaching culture in China

Higher education in China is quite hierarchical. Students are often required to formally address the teachers using 'professor' or “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 for 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. Be aware that Chinese universities are required to submit attendance records of international students to the Bureau of Immigration. If your attendance is below what's required for a student visa, your visa may be canceled, or you may find yourself unable to renew it.

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 programs and scholarships available.

Student life in China

Student life in China can be anything you want it to be. If you study in one of the larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen, your life as a student may not be that different from what it would be in your home country. First-tier cities in China have very well-developed infrastructure. Plus, you will find all the “familiar” establishments to turn to after your studies, like McDonald's, KFC, Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, Walmart, and others. You will also find large expat communities in big Chinese cities — so there will be lots of opportunities for socializing.

If you study in a smaller town, you may need to learn some Chinese to feel comfortable in your everyday life. There may also be fewer expats in smaller cities in China. However, you will also enjoy a lower cost of living and less competition in the job market.

International students in Beijing also have a lot of choices when it comes to after-school activities. You can explore all the varieties of Chinese cuisine, learn about the country's culture, and travel to other parts of China. No matter where in China you are settled, traveling around the country is easy and convenient — with cheap flights and a well-developed high-speed railway network.

Campus life in China can also be rich and fulfilling. There are lots of activities that are popular with Chinese students, like table tennis, karaoke, tai chi, and others. Practically all universities offer fully equipped facilities for sports and other after-class activities.

Study Chinese in China

If you are not ready to commit to a full-time study program in China, consider taking up a Chinese language course. If you are interested in exploring China and learning more about the country, signing up for a Chinese course may be a great way to do that. Most universities across China offer specialized courses for learning Chinese. Plus, there are also private language training centers that offer a variety of language classes.

Useful links:

Tsinghua University

Peking University

Beijing Normal University

Beihang University

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