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How to Attract 523,700 Chinese International Students to Your School

According to the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) from 2014 to 2015, the number of Chinese students studying abroad had an increase of 13.9%, which brings us to a total of 523,700 Chinese students.

If we were to put this into perspective that’s just about the entire population of Washington D.C in the USA (601,723), more than the population of the entire province of New Found Land in Canada, and just about the same amount of people of the entire country of Luxembourg (584,103) in Europe.

But this is just the number of Chinese student leaving China to study abroad in 2015. If you taking into account all Chinese student who has left China to study abroad since 1987, there would be more than 4 million international students just from China alone.

Which makes China the largest exporter of international students in the world by a factor of 2x. Chinese international students also account for nearly a quarter of the entire population of international students around the world.t

The 3 Most Popular Destination of Chinese International Student

US, UK, and Australia are the most popular countries for Chinese international student. MoE stated that as of 2015, 31% of all international students in the USA are Chinese, 20& in the UK, and 27% in the Australia.

And according to Canadian Bureau for International Education a whopping 33% of all international student in Canada are Chinese, follow up by India with only 12%. Other popular destination for Chinese international students includes Japan, Ireland, and Korea.

Average Expenditure of a Chinese International Student

While the average expenditure of studying abroad will vary from country to country and the field of study. It is pretty safe to say that an average Chinese international student should expect to be paying anywhere from $15,000 USD to $50,000 USD or more per year! And we haven’t even included housing, other living expenses, and health insurance.

NAFSA reported that the expenditure of the 1 million international students in the United State accounted for $31.8 billion of the U.S economy in 2015. Which means the 31% of the Chinese international students would have accounted for at least $9.89 billion.

An international student would have come from a middle to upper-income family household unless they’ve received grants or some kind of scholarship. This is especially the case with Chinese international student.

Really, I can go on and on, but it doesn’t take a Ph.D. graduate to see the opportunity and benefit of attracting more Chinese international student to at your institution and country.

But there is a problem…

most foreign high school, colleges, and Universities just don’t get it… they don’t understand the true desire and the reason behind the decision to study abroad.

Why All Foreign Colleges & Universities Just Don’t Get It

It all starts with desires, but contrary to what most foreign Institutions, College, or University might believe the desire doesn’t start with students, the desire actually starts from their parents and there are 3 primary drivers.

Drive #1: Following Trend

If you would look at the average age of all the international students in the past 5 years. What you will find is they’re getting younger. In fact, New Oriental Education and Technology Group, a SAT and TOEFL testing preparation company in China stated: “there has been an increase 30% increase of students under the age of 18 taking exams from 2011 to 2012”.

Never underestimate the Ego of the Chinese parents. Many Chinese parents will decide to send their kids to study abroad simply because everyone else around them is sending their kids off, and they don’t want their kids to be left behind.

I know this sounds insane, but it’s true.

And because of this huge demand to go abroad, many Chinese international education agencies that primarily helps students to enter international schools begin to promote Chinese parents to send their kids at a younger age.

Their reasoning is that it gives their Child a better shot at being accepted by college and university after high school. Of course, the real reason is it’s a lot more profitable for the agencies to send kids to High School then College and Universities.

Drive #2: Failing China Entry Exam

Education in China is a big deal! Especially on the academic side of it. Traditionally, all Chinese students would go through Gaokao(高考) and depend on how you score on the exam you can land a position in with the government.

Nowadays, Gaokao is called National Higher Education Entrance Examination, which is the examination that every student must take if they want to be accepted into any Universities in China. Each and every year more than 10 million students take this long and hard exam, and if they fail they must wait another year just to retake the exam.

Needless to say, not everyone can pass the test, and sometimes even the best will fall short due to variety of reasons. Unwilling to accept the reality that their child was not able to pass the entry exam, many Chinses parents choose to send their kids off to study in international Universities and colleges.

Driver #3: Explore the World

Some Chinese parents simply want their kids to explore the world a little more. After all, China has been suppressed for a solid 30 to 40 years. Parents of these Chinese international students simply never had the opportunity to travel and explore the world.

Now, with China being more open, and with the booming economy. All of a sudden, the kids of these parents, can now enjoy the luxury that their parents simply could not afford to.

Driver #4: Immigration

As far as I know, this only applies to USA and Canada. One of the bigger drivers for Chinese parents sending their kids to study in Canada and USA is they want their kids to have a shot at immigrating to these countries.

Drive #5: Better Education

This one is straight forward. Some students simply want to study abroad because they thinks the education is of higher quality in a particular subject or in general. But this driver makes up a rather small percentage of all Chinese international students.

While I don’t actually have numbers on this one, but if I would take the best guess, I would say it’s less than 5%. The reason is simple…

Students that are actively looking to learn at the best possible school for any particular subject are going to be self-driven. Meaning they’re highly self-motivated to study, and achieve a certain degree of education. In China, self-driven and highly self-motivated students usually come from small villages due to poverty.

Since the financial requirement to study internationally is more than 3 time the cost of studying nationally, these self-driven students are most likely unable to afford it unless they’re able to win some sort of scholarship.

This leaves us with an extremely small percentage of students that can afford to study abroad, don’t have a scholarship, and are self-driven.

The Status Quo

Once the parents get that spark of initial desire to send their kids off to study abroad, they begin to seek out information. If they have friends or families they start from them first. If they don’t they look for parents of their child’s schoolmates who have already send their kids abroad. And if they don’t even have then they begin to look for information not on the internet but ads on newspapers and magazines.

These ads are usually placed by ZhongJie(中介) which literally translate to “middle man”. These ZhongJie and there are a lot of them in China, are essentially Chinese International Student Broker who essentially charges parents to plan and send their kids off to study internationally.

Pretty simple, right?

The problem, however, is many of these brokers are extremely greedy. Let me share this story with you.

The Story of Juan Wen Shi

Juan is a student who just finished her high school in China. During the University entrance exam, she did not do well and failed to meet the minimum requirement of the school she wanted to attend (925 series University, one of the top university in China).

The thing is, at the city where Juan lives, all exam attendees have to submit their “tier 1 preferred university” before taking the exam. And if they failed to achieve the requirement for the Tier 1 [referred university, they failed to get into any universities.

Feeling the reality of this unfair system motivated Juan’s parents to send her to study oversea where she could at least have a better chance at the education she deserves. Juan’s mother believes, “at the very least Juan is not going to waste what she has accomplished in the past 10 academic years”

The agency Juan’s mother found claims they are associated with local government. After 6 months and spending $2,000 USD for the document preparations, Juan was eventually sent to a local college in Vancouver to study English. However, that is just the beginning of her money-burning nightmare.

What Juan didn’t realize was that the college that she was sent to was actually a private college that was affiliated with the agency. Once Juan arrived, the private college told Juan that in order to for her to be able to apply for universities she must first take an additional year of English and one other subject with the college first.

This means Juan must pay for a one additional year of tuition fee, accommodation fee, meal plan, and many other associated fees. On top of that the college claimed, if Juan doesn’t pass their English course, she will have to retake the entire year until she passes it.

The funny thing is, even after Juan passed their English course, she still had the take either the TOEFL or LSAT test before she can apply to any universities anyway.

This was something that the agency neglect to mention to Juan and her parents. Juan could have studied English in China and then take either the TOEFL or LSAT test and apply to the universities herself. Instead, her parents were scammed out of thousands of dollars for something their daughter didn’t need to go through.

How to Eliminate the Middle Man and Create a Win, Win Situation

We believe there is a better way for Chinese students to go abroad, but it requires the Institutions, College, or University to take on a more active role.

One of the biggest reason why parents of these Chinese international students look for “middle man” to help their daughter and son to study abroad is that of lack of information. The parents of these international students lived through the Communist Revolution where education was scared in China.

Many of them, either had very little formal education or no education at all. They cannot read English or any other language but even if they could, there is no Google, Facebook, or any other form of information thanks to the “Great Firewall of China”

Their only source of information would either come from their friends and families which often are going to be misinformed themselves or talk to agencies that are in it for the profit.

This is why, we believe if more foreign schools would actively market and provide more information, guidance, and an easier way for Chinese parents to find and register their daughter and sons it would mutually beneficial to both parties.

The parents could have protected their money from being ruthlessly robbed by the middleman agencies, and the schools, Colleges, and Universities can gain brand exposure, and perhaps even provide some of the services the agencies provide but at a more affordable price.


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