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Universities in China

Chinese universities offer high- quality education and are becoming more and more popular among expats as well. We give you an overview of the higher education system, admission requirements and various measures designed to strengthen specific universities and fields.
The higher education system in China is a breeding ground for successful business professionals of the future.

China is home to around 2,000 colleges and universities with a student body of more than six million. Students can choose between various degree programs such as bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as non-degree programs. Foreign students are welcome to enter all institutions of higher education in China.

Since the mid-1980s, higher education in China has not been funded by the state anymore, which is why the competition for scholarships is high. As they are based on academic performance, the pressure to perform well in secondary school and during the Gaokao is rather high. (You can find out more about this from our article on the Chinese school system.) Thus, international students have to prove themselves in this competitive environment, especially because more and more foreigners are enrolling at Chinese universities. In early 2014, more than 350,000 international students were studying in China.

Centers of Innovation

China has the largest higher education system in the world. Its universities and independent colleges are considered equal institutions of higher learning. Some of them are run directly by the Ministry of Education, some fall under the authority of local governments, and others are run by the cities or communities. Prospective students can choose from different types of universities, colleges, and professional schools of higher education.

Students spend two or three years on an undergraduate level if they attend a junior college (also known as short-cycle college). Other regular universities, however, usually offer three-year and four-year programs on the undergraduate level. Many also offer graduate programs leading to master’s or doctoral degrees.

Aside from the usual undergraduate and graduate programs, scientific research is also an essential part of Chinese higher education. Various key laboratories, open research labs and engineer research centers have been established by Chinese universities, and function as a driving force behind innovative new science and technology.

If you want to learn more about China before attending a university there, have a look at some facts and figures.

Project 211 and 985

There are two projects, designed to strengthen specific universities and fields, and support the founding of new, world-class universities in China. These projects are commonly referred to as “211” and “985”. Project 211 aims to identify the best universities for the 21st century and support them in their development. Currently, there are 112 universities which receive this support to fulfill the highest standards in terms of their organization, education, and research.

Project 985, on the other hand, is a support program which aims to ensure world-class standards in China’s best universities and allows them to compete with other top universities around the world. Project 985 takes the approach of project 211, mentioned above, one step further and currently includes 39 universities. It has two lines, focusing on science and technology, as well as social sciences and philosophy, respectively.

Gaining Admission

Admission requirements can, of course, vary, depending on the university you plan on applying to. Peking University, for instance, requires visiting students to pass a language proficiency exam or show proof of receiving a certificate of the HSK (Hanyu shuiping kaoshi). Only if the applicant has passed one of these tests with a high mark can they attend specialty courses.

Moreover, every program might have its own requirements. Peking University offers 11 English-speaking master’s programs at the moment. Most of them require you to submit a completed application form, certified copies of your diploma in English or Chinese, certified copies of your official transcripts, and a photocopy of your valid passport. Often an entrance examination and an interview will be conducted as well. Please inquire with the university of your choice regarding the exact admission requirements, application deadlines, and visa requirements.


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