We often think of China as a top sending country in terms of international exchange. However, it’s also a major receiving country. Which begs the question: Why do so many international students want to study there? Recent research published in the Journal of Studies in International Education takes a closer look at China’s growing appeal.

Rising Numbers

According to the study, the number of international students in China has skyrocketed from 36,855 to 442,773 since 1995 -- a more than tenfold increase. Leading the charge? Students from other Asian countries, who made up nearly 58 percent of the country’s international student population.

Many Factors

After surveying and interviewing 30 international students, study authors Wen Wen and Die Hu determined several factors influencing China’s popularity. For starters, reputation and quality were significant driving factors. China’s claim to numerous first-tier, world-class universities was particularly important to Asian students when compared to their European, North American and sub-Saharan African peers.

An international student-friendly admissions policy is also a factor. “Overall, China’s admission policy for domestic and international students is different and there are a lot of institutional differences in admitting international students in China. Only top universities have entrance examinations for international students and the admissions of international students is not a process as strict as that for domestic students,” reveals the study.

Also factoring into the equation? Affordability. Not only does the Chinese government provide scholarships totaling $300,000 to international students annually, but China’s low cost of living promises even more financial benefits.

Furthermore, Wen and Hu determined that students were also drawn to China because of its co-operation with their home countries, as well as being hopeful that their time in China would strengthen their job prospects.

According to the report, “cultural and social motivations" were less important factors in people choosing China as a study destination.

Lastly, the degree to which certain factors matter also depends on students’ countries of origin. “There are also differences in motivations between students from developed and developing countries. Students from some developing countries are more concerned with improving job opportunities by increasing Chinese language skills than their counterparts from developed countries,” say Wen and Hu.

Learn more about studying in China here