If you want a rewarding and exciting study-abroad experience, China may be the perfect destination. It is a country where you will find ancient traditions and modern innovations. China has a long history and an incredibly diverse culture that allows you to expand your perspectives. You can learn from and contribute to a robust economy, innovation, and development. Not to mention, it is the origin of the most widely spoken languages in the world. If you decide to study in China, you can choose from various programs and disciplines, access state-of-the-art facilities and resources, and collaborate with leading experts and researchers.
However, choosing which university in China to apply to can be challenging. China has more than 2,900 universities, with many of them among the top 100 in global rankings. So, how do you find the best university to support your interests, goals, and preferences?
This guide will help you narrow your options and find the best university for your experience and education. We’ll discuss how the following factors can influence your decision:
- The global ranking and reputation of universities
- The academic programs and courses offered by the university
- The location and campus life of the university
- The cost and financial aid options of the university
- The language and culture of the university
By combining this guide with research, forethought, and intuition, you should feel better equipped to decide the best university in China for you. Let’s get started!
Global Ranking and Reputation
One of the first things you might want to consider when choosing a university in China is its global ranking and reputation. This can give you an indication of the quality and prestige of the education you will receive, as well as the recognition and opportunities you will have after graduation.
There are several ranking systems that evaluate universities around the world based on various criteria, such as academic performance, research output, faculty quality, student satisfaction, employability, and internationalization. Some of the most popular ranking systems are:
- The QS World University Rankings
- The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings
- The Academic Ranking of World Universities
China has been making great strides in its higher education sector, with two Chinese universities recognized among the World’s Top 15 in THE’s 2024 ranking.
Taking into consideration the various ranking systems, some of the best universities in China are:
- Tsinghua University
- Peking University
- Fudan University
- Zhejiang University
- Shanghai Jiao Tong University
These universities are located in Beijing or Shanghai, which are the two most developed and cosmopolitan cities in China. They are also part of the C9 League, which is a group of nine elite universities that receive special funding and support from the Chinese government.
However, ranking and reputation are not everything. There are many other universities in China that may not be as well-known or highly-ranked globally, but still offer excellent education and experience for international students. For example:
- Nanjing University
- Xi’an Jiaotong University
- Sichuan University
- Sun Yat-sen University
- Harbin Institute of Technology
These universities are located in different regions of China, such as Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Guangdong, and Heilongjiang. They offer a more diverse and authentic exposure to Chinese culture, history, and geography. They also have strong academic programs and research centers in various fields, such as humanities, social sciences, engineering, medicine, and business.
Rather than making a decision based entirely on a university’s ranking and reputation, be sure to also consider your own interests, goals, and preferences. It’s recommended that you look beyond the numbers and names, and research more about the specific features and strengths of each university.
Academic Programs and Courses Offered
The academic quality of a university is an especially crucial factor, as it determines not only what you will learn, but also how you will learn, integrate and practice the knowledge. You’ll want to find a university that offers programs and courses that match your interests, goals, and abilities. For each program or course you are interested in, check its curriculum, teaching methods, assessment criteria, and accreditation (will your qualification be recognized worldwide?).
Many universities in China offer a wide variety of programs across different disciplines and levels. For example:
- Tsinghua University offers more than 80 undergraduate programs, more than 200 master’s programs, more than 80 doctoral programs, as well as various dual degree programs, exchange programs, summer programs, online programs, and short-term programs for international students.
- Peking University offers more than 90 undergraduate programs, more than 200 master’s programs, more than 170 doctoral programs, as well as various joint degree programs, exchange programs, summer programs, online programs, and short-term programs for international students.
Certain universities and schools offer more specialized or focused programs in certain fields or areas. For example:
- Fudan University is known for its excellence in humanities and social sciences, especially in economics, management, law, journalism, and international relations. Fudan’s MBA program has gained excellent recognition and praise around the world.
- Zhejiang University is known for its excellence in natural sciences and engineering, especially in computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biotechnology.
- Shanghai Jiao Tong University is known for its excellence in medicine and health sciences, especially in clinical medicine, public health, pharmacy, and nursing.
Be sure to consider your own academic background, interests, goals, and preferences. The ideal unversity for you should offer the program or course that matches your needs and expectations.
Location and Campus Life
The location of a university and the campus culture will play a large influence on your study-abroad experience in China. Different universities are located in different cities or regions, which have different climates, cultures, and lifestyles. Make sure the location of your chosen university suits your preferences. Meanwhile, a university’s campus life can affect your social and emotional well-being. It helps to find a university that has a friendly and supportive community, as well as various activities and facilities for students.
Some universities in China are located in big cities that offer many attractions, opportunities, and conveniences for international students. For example:
- Beijing is the capital and political center of China. It is also a cultural and historical hub that boasts many landmarks, such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. It is a modern city that offers many entertainment, shopping, dining, and nightlife options.
- Shanghai is the largest and most populous city in China. It is also a financial and commercial center that hosts many multinational corporations, banks, and organizations. This cosmopolitan city blends traditional and modern elements, such as the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Yu Garden, and the French Concession. Shanghai is also a cultural and artistic city that offers many museums, galleries, theaters, and festivals.
Other universities are located in smaller cities or regions that offer more diversity, authenticity, and adventure for international students. For example:
- Nanjing is the capital of Jiangsu province and a former capital of China. It is also a historical and cultural city that has witnessed many important events in Chinese history, such as the Ming Dynasty, the Taiping Rebellion, the Nanjing Massacre, and the Republic of China. It’s a scenic and green city has many parks, lakes, mountains, and temples.
- Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province and one of the oldest cities in China. It’s an archaeological and cultural city that is home to many ancient relics, such as the Terracotta Army, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, the City Wall, and the Muslim Quarter. Xi’an is also a gastronomic haven with many delicious dishes, such as biang biang noodles, rou jia mo, yang rou pao mo, and liang pi.
With these factors, don’t forget to think about what kind of place and environment you like. Do you prefer a big city or a small town? A warm climate or a cold one? A modern vibe or a traditional one? What are your hobbies and interests? Find a university that is in a place that makes you happy and comfortable.
Cost and Financial Aid Options
How much it costs to live and study in China can vary depending on factors such as:
- The tuition fees of the university
- The living expenses of the city or region
- The exchange rate of your home currency
- The duration of your program
- The type of accommodation you choose
- The travel expenses you incur
READ MORE: Chinese University Tuition Fees
Note that actual tuition fees may vary depending on the university, the program, and the subject. Universities charge different fees depending on their ranking, reputation, or specialty. Some programs or subjects may also have higher or lower tuition fees depending on their demand, difficulty, or equipment. Check our platform for the tuition fees of your chosen programs.
The living expenses in China can also vary depending on the city or region you choose to study in. Generally speaking, living in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai will be more expensive than living in smaller cities or regions like Nanjing or Xi’an. However, this also depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and habits.
These are the average living expenses for international students, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education:
- Cost of living: 2,500 RMB (about 390 USD) per month.
- Accommodation: 1,000 RMB (about 160 USD) per month.
- Food: 600 RMB (about 90 USD) per month.
- Transportation: 200 RMB (about 30 USD) per month.
- Entertainment: 300 RMB (about 50 USD) per month
Actual living expenses may vary depending on your personal choices and needs. You should also consider the exchange rate of your home currency and the inflation rate of China when planning your budget.
Fortunately, there are many scholarships and financial aid options available for international students who want to study in China. Some of these are offered by the Chinese government, such as:
- The Chinese Government Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees, accommodation fees, living allowance, and medical insurance for international students who want to pursue a degree or non-degree program in China.
- The Confucius Institute Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees, accommodation fees, living allowance, and medical insurance for international students who want to study Chinese language and culture in China.
- The Belt and Road Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees, accommodation fees, living allowance, and medical insurance for international students from countries along the Belt and Road Initiative who want to pursue a degree or non-degree program in China.
There are also scholarships offered by the universities themselves, such as:
- The Tsinghua University Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees and living allowance for international students who want to pursue a degree program at Tsinghua University.
- The Peking University Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees and living allowance for international students who want to pursue a degree program at Peking University.
- The Fudan University Scholarship: covers full or partial tuition fees and living allowance for international students who want to pursue a degree program at Fudan University.
You can also search for financial aid options arranged by other organizations or institutions, for example:
- The Schwarzman Scholars Program: covers full tuition fees, accommodation fees, living allowance, travel expenses, and medical insurance for international students who want to pursue a master’s degree in global affairs at Tsinghua University.
- The Yenching Academy Scholarship: covers full tuition fees, accommodation fees, living allowance, travel expenses, and medical insurance for international students who want to pursue a master’s degree in China studies at Peking University.
Language and Culture
Language and culture play a large role in your learning and living experience in China. Look for a university that offers courses in a language you are fluent in, as well as provides language support and resources for international students. It’s also good to find a university that has a diverse and incusive culture, as it will allow you to meet people from different backgrounds and learn about different perspectives.
The official language of China is Mandarin Chinese (also known as Putongh ua), which is spoken by most of the population. However, there are also many other languages and dialects spoken by different ethnic groups and regions in China, such as Cantonese, Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Hakka. Some universities in China offer courses in these languages as well.
Most universities offer courses in Mandarin Chinese for international students who want to learn the Chinese language and culture of China. Some universities even offer courses in other languages, such as French, German, Spanish, or Japanese.
The availability and quality of courses in different languages may vary depending on the university, the program, and the subject. You can also study the Chinese language online for additional flexibility. The Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) offers some great online Chinese programs tailored to various needs.
Cultural diversity and inclusivity tends to vary depending on the university, the location, and the campus. Check to see how many international students attend the university, as this can also influence how much support and services are offered for international students. There are some universities, such as United International College (UIC), that are very active in hosting events and activities for international students, which can help you settle in and find your place.
Finally, don’t forget to consider your own language skills and cultural background. Look for a university that offers courses in a language that you are comfortable with, keeping in mind that most will ask you to take a language proficiency test to ensure the course is right for you.Universities with a diverse and inclusive culture can also make you feel more comfortable and welcome in.
Other factors to consider
Besides the criteria mentioned above, there may be other factors that you want to consider when choosing a university, for example:
- Admission requirements and process for the university (we’re here to help!)
- Visa requirements for your program
- Weather and climate of the city or region
- Safety and security of the city or region
- Transportation and accessibility of the city or region
- Health care and insurance options
- Food and cuisine options of the city or region
- Entertainment and leisure options of the city or region
- Social and networking opportunities of the university
- Alumni network and feedback of the university
READ MORE: China (X) Student Visa
Apply for the 2024 Intake
By following this guide, you will be able to narrow down your options and find the best university in China for your study abroad experience. We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. Studying in China can be an amazing and rewarding opportunity for you, so don’t miss it!
If you are ready to start your journey, you can browse our platform for hundreds of programs from different universities in China.
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