How educational institutions can capitalise on the rise in Chinese students

“Gain a deeper understanding of the decision-making process Chinese international students and their parents go through”

With over 500,000 Chinese students heading overseas for their education every year, China remains the top country of origin for international students worldwide. This number is expected to grow proportionately to the number of China’s upper-middle-class and affluent households, which is estimated to reach 100 million by 2020.

While the US, UK and Australia remain the most popular study destinations for Chinese students, we are starting to see new trends and preferences emerging. For instance, there has been an increase in Chinese international students going to non-English speaking countries and studying at 2nd and 3rd tier universities in English-speaking countries.

“This means that attracting Chinese international students to your school or university is becoming a more even playing field”

You don’t necessarily need to be globally renowned to attract them, but rather gain a deeper understanding of the decision-making process that Chinese international students and their parents go through when choosing an international study destination, and then adapt your marketing strategy accordingly.

1. Show them what their life at your university could look like

An enriched personal experience (64%) and advanced knowledge (54%) are at the top of the list of personal outcomes both Chinese international students and their parents are hoping to achieve from pursuing a degree abroad. Many students (46%) are also looking to improve their employment prospects when they will return to China with an international qualification.

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Educational institutions looking to attract Chinese international students should, therefore, ensure that they address these different aspects of the study experience on their official Chinese-language website, and ensure that the information can be accessed and understood by both prospective students and their parents.

For instance, you could dedicate a section of your site showcasing the supportive university environment you provide with many social activities outside of the classroom (student clubs, sporting events, career workshops). Video testimonials from previous international students explaining how their abroad study experience has helped them both personally and professional are powerful to tell an authentic story that students can relate to.

2. Promote degrees that align Chinese students’ with your academic strengths

While postgraduate degrees are the most popular level of education (54%) sought by Chinese international students, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree overseas is increasing in popularity (48%). Regardless of the level of degree, the most popular fields of study for Chinese students are Business (27%), Engineering (17%) and Liberal Arts (16%).

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What’s interesting is that 8% of students are still uncertain about the field of study they want to pursue when they first start investigating potential international study destinations. For international education institutions, this means you should promote available degrees that both play to the academic strengths of your institution and that are aligned with the interests of Chinese international students.

Setting up dedicated Chinese landing pages for each field of study will help those who are still uncertain in their decision, while on the other hand strengthen the confidence of the ones who have already narrowed down their choices in the quality of your course offering.

3. Address the key concerns of both parents and students

Studying overseas in a country with a different language, culture, business environment and laws can be a slightly scary prospect. That’s why it’s no surprise that security, cost and career prosperity are the top three concerns for both Chinese students and their parents.

Addressing these issues through targeted content on the Chinese language website can help put Chinese international students at ease in their decision-making journey and keep your university front of mind when it’s time to submit the application.

About the author: Dandan Cheng is the COO and one of the co-founders of Sinorbis, a digital marketing platform that helps Western companies tap into China’s growing consumer market. She is a cross-border leader with deep expertise in Chinese market entry strategies and business operations.