The second most popular study destination after Beijing, Shanghai is home to some of China’s best universities for international students. The financial heart of China, Shanghai is a cosmopolitan and fashionable city. The city boasts a fast-paced atmosphere, towering skyscrapers and traditional architecture, and excellent arts, culture, tech, and financial scenes. If you are looking for the perfect place to study in China, you should not miss out on the opportunities Shanghai offers.
In Chinese, Shanghai is known as 魔都 Mo Du, the “Magic City.” Are you ready to create your own magical study abroad experience here? We have chosen the best universities for each type of student: top-ranked universities, most international universities, best business schools, and most affordable.
Why Study in Shanghai?
I lived and studied in Shanghai for four years, so this city has a special place in my heart. There are dozens of reasons to study in this coastal metropolis, but I will break it down to just a few of the important reasons that made me want to study undergrad in Shanghai:
#1 Walkable and convenient city
For being a city of 27.8 million people, Shanghai is easy to get around. Public transport is cheap, convenient, and clean. Shared bikes are common and streets have bike lanes for your use. And the downtown area is close together so it’s quite easy to walk around most of the center city in an hour or two.
Shanghai is also more affordable than you might think. With hundreds of local groceries and markets, it’s easy to save money on cooking. Taking public transport and renting a room from a Chinese landlord rather than a foreign rental service have all made it possible for me to save money and live well in Shanghai.
#2 Plenty of career opportunities
Shanghai is one of the world’s biggest and most diverse cities. There are internship and work opportunities for every field: business, psychology, fashion, fine arts, journalism, marketing, crypto, tech…the list goes on. Businesses in Shanghai are used to working with and hiring international students, so you may find the internship and work visa process is more streamlined for you.
#3 International city with Chinese flavor (or, Chinese city with international flavor?)
Some expats may think Shanghai is not “Chinese enough” because of the large number of foreign residents and international stores and restaurants. But Shanghai is of course very Chinese–business-driven, open-minded, and cosmopolitan China. Expect to meet people from every country and continent, as well as friends from all backgrounds across China. You’ll have access to both Brazilian fine dining and streetside Lanzhou noodles; a traditional Chinese dance performance at the theater as well as world-class modern art museums.
#4 Captivating History
Shanghai began as a tiny fishing village. How did it become a global metropolis today? As you walk around Shanghai, you’ll see evidence of this city’s unique past: the old city with the regal Confucius Temple, the French Concession with European-style architecture from the days of colonialism, the old international settlement of Hongkou where Jewish refugees lived during World War II, and the building where the Communist Party of China was founded. Take the time to wander and explore Shanghai’s history and why it earned the nicknames “Paris of the East” and “The City That Never Sleeps.”
Top Ranked Universities in Shanghai
If you want a school with high-quality education, a competitive ranking, and a fantastic reputation, look no further! These are the top Chinese universities in Shanghai.
Shanghai Jiaotong University
SJTU is a comprehensive, research-oriented, and internationalized top university in China. With profound cultural background, an age-old tradition on education, strenuous development history, and great achievements made after the reform and opening-up period of the 80s, SJTU has attracted wide attention both inside and outside China.
Students love SJTU for its international atmosphere, quality education, and ideal location to explore Shanghai.
SJTU offers Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD, and Chinese programs.
Fudan is a comprehensive multi-disciplinary research university with many highly-ranked majors and programs and is a member of the C9 League, Universitas 21 and Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU). Fudan University is widely known for its campus culture of freedom, rich variety, and forward progress. Its campus culture is expressed in many dimensions, such as its outstanding school spirit, its rich academic flavor, its ideology of free discussion, the many independent choices available, and its open and accepting attitude.
Though Fudan is not located in the city center, students love being able to practice Chinese daily and immerse themselves in the malls and markets around campus.
Fudan offers non-degree Chinese programs, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs.
With a history of over a century, Tongji has valued the balanced development of four functions, i.e. education, research, outreach, and culture inheritance and innovation. The university has deep connections with European institutions. Tongji was traditionally renowned in Architecture and Civil Engineering, and now prominent in Economics & Management, Arts & Design, Environmental, Engineering, and Automobile Engineering.
Tongji’s location and international student accommodations are viewed well among students who have studied there.
Tongji offers non-degree Chinese programs, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs.
East China Normal University
Founded in Shanghai in October 1951, East China Normal University (ECNU) is one of the most prestigious universities in China and is sponsored by the national programs “Project 211” and “Project 985”. ECNU attaches great importance to the internationalization of its development and enjoys a wide influence and an excellent reputation around the world. The university has established exchange and cooperative partnerships with more than 150 internationally renowned universities and academic institutions.
At ECNU, students value the opportunity to travel, make new friends across cultures, improve Chinese ability, and become more independent.
ECNU offers non-degree Chinese programs, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs.
There is a Chinese saying: “吃在同济、玩在复旦、住在交大、爱在华师大” which means “Tongji has the best food, Fudan has the best parties, Shanghai Jiaotong has the best dormitories, ECNU is best for finding love.”
You can look up university rankings, programs, and prices right here on China Admissions, and judge for yourself which university is the best for you!
Best Universities for International Students in Shanghai
Because of Shanghai’s global prominence, international schools and programs have all rushed to established campuses in the city. Many are joint venture universities (a collaboration between a Chinese and foreign university) that offer dual degrees (two diplomas upon graduation). Learn more about dual degree programs and if they’re right for you.
Here are the best international universities in Shanghai with a diverse student body, global focus, and unique cosmopolitan curriculum.
New York University Shanghai (NYU Shanghai) is jointly established by New York University and East China Normal University of Shanghai. It is the first American college to receive independent registration status from China’s Ministry of Education. While classes are in English, some proficiency in Chinese is required for graduation. NYUSH combines a rigorous American-style education with a Chinese focus. Attracting top students from across China and the world, NYUSH students study abroad as part of their curriculum and learn “in and of the city” through field trips, expert local professors, and extracurriculars.
I attended my undergrad at NYUSH, so I may be biased, but this is truly one of the best universities for students who want to deeply learn about China but still be competitive in a global market. I was able to intern as a journalist across Shanghai as well as study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. NYUSH students graduate with two degrees: one Chinese diploma, and one US diploma, so students will have an easier time working in both countries.
NYUSH offers Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs.
Sino-British College, Shanghai
SBC Shanghai is the perfect university for students who want to combine a Chinese and British education. The College offers a number of programs to international students in English. This includes 1-year foundation programs in English, and a large number of mixed programs with some time spent in Shanghai, and the rest at a University in UK. (2+1) – 2 Years in Shanghai and 2 Years in the UK, or (1+2) 1 year in Shanghai and 2 years in UK. Graduates are awarded a degree from one of the British partner institutions.
SBC is based in a beautiful historic campus in the heart of the city of Shanghai. Students have access to a unique educational experience across countries and cultures, and are within walking distance to some of Shanghai’s most exciting downtown areas!
SBC offers foundation programs and Bachelor’s programs.
Best Business Schools in Shanghai
Shanghai alone makes up 12.5% of the total revenue of China, and in 2019 had a GDP of US$539 billion. The city is also home to the Pilot Free-Trade Zone, designated by the government to test out international trade policies. This means that Shanghai has some of the most favorable conditions in China to live and do business. It’s the perfect place to study business and finance! These are the best business schools in Shanghai:
China Europe International Business School
This groundbreaking university is the first business school on the Chinese mainland to have been accredited by both EQUIS and AACSB and the only business school in Asia to have simultaneously made it to the Financial Times’ top 30 list of MBA, EMBA and Executive Education programmes. CEIBS offers China’s largest full-time, English-taught MBA programme, the world’s largest EMBA programme, stand-alone Global EMBA, as well as a part-time Finance MBA (FMBA) programme, a range of Executive Education programmes and an intensive Ph.D. programme.
Asia Europe Business School
Asia Europe Business School was founded by East China Normal University and Emlyon business school on June 24, 2015. With the mission to develop the Belt and Road entrepreneurs and cross-border talents, Asia Europe Business School is committed to cultivating its students to be cross-border commercial talents and entrepreneurs with profound humanistic connotations and social responsibility, and to be envoys of the Belt and Road.
emylon business school
emlyon business school is a French leading business school. It has triple accreditation: EQUIS by the EFMD, AMBA, and the AACSB. emlyon has 6 campuses currently: Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Paris, Shanghai, Casablanca and Bhubaneswar. Their approach aims to be bilateral; enabling various international participants to learn about the economic and entrepreneurial realities of China and Asia, and allowing Asian participants to understand European managerial realities.
Hult International Business School
Hult International Business school is a world-class business school that has campuses all over the world such as in London, New York City, Dubai, and Shanghai. Hult International Business School Shanghai teaches you Asian business culture and why it’s becoming a major player in global business. Hult will make sure that you get the best experience and connect with people on a worldwide scale through China.
Hult International Business School is an award-winning institution. It’s among the world’s best business schools. In fact, in 2015, Bloomberg Business ranked Hult as one of the best schools in the United States.
Most Affordable Universities in Shanghai
As one of the world’s biggest and most modern cities, Shanghai is not the cheapest place to live. In 2021, it is ranked the third most expensive city in Asia for expats to live in, right after Hong Kong and Tokyo. Of course, you can always apply for scholarships, find affordable lodging with roommates, and limit extra spending on travel and fancy dinners. But going to an affordable university always helps!
In general, Chinese universities are much cheaper than universities in the US or UK. And depending on your program, the tuition fees will of course be different: a non-degree Chinese course will cost less than a PhD no matter which university. But here are the cheapest universities in Shanghai in general for you to consider:
- Shanghai International Studies University (Tuition for Master’s: $4,025 USD per year.)
- Asia Europe Business School (Tuition starts at $3,600 USD per year)
- Shanghai Maritime University (Tuition for Bachelor’s: $3,095 USD per year)
- Shanghai University (Tuition for Bachelor’s: $4,642 USD per year)
- Tongji University (Tuition for Bachelor’s: starting from $4,441 USD per year)
- East China Normal University (Tuition for Master’s: from $3,869 per year)
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