China seeks lessons in attracting more foreign students

Updated: 2013-09-25 01:58

By He Dan (China Daily)

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Although the number of foreign students studying on the Chinese mainland has increased steadily in the past eight years, it still falls far behind the number of Chinese students going abroad, a report released on Tuesday said.

According to the Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad 2013, there were 1.14 million Chinese studying overseas last year. That compares with only 328,000 foreign students in China.

Published by the Center for China and Globalization, the report cites a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development done earlier this year showing that China lags behind 10 developed economies in terms of the number of international students.

The OECD said that China attracted only 1.8 percent of international university students in 2011.

The US, the top destination for international students, attracted 17.5 percent.

Only three universities on the Chinese mainland were ranked among the top 200 world-class universities, according to a worldwide university ranking in 2011-12 released by the Times Higher Education.

The report said Chinese universities are less competitive than many of their counterparts in developed economies in terms of faculty, curriculum and student management.

Liu Hong, a professor specialized in talent policies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the Chinese government should provide more subsidies to universities so they can recruit more global talent to improve teaching quality.

In 2010, only about 11,000 foreign teachers taught in universities on the Chinese mainland, accounting for less than 1 percent of the total faculty.

The rate was 40 to 50 percent in Hong Kong that year, the report said.

Li Siyan, marketing director of Laureate International Universities' China region, an international higher educational organization, said, "A lot of foreign students are interested in studying in China to learn not only the Chinese language but also the business culture, as China is an increasingly important economy."

However, some abandoned the plan after they found that the Chinese educational system is not flexible enough to allow them to choose what and where to study, he said.

But Elena Klorer, a graduate student at the Institute of Sinology in the University of Freiburg of Germany, said China provides abundant opportunities for foreign students to study in China.

"If you want to come to China, there are lots of programs and scholarships," said Klorer, who studied at Peking University in 2009 and 2010.

She is now in Beijing doing research for her master's thesis.

She said China will attract more foreign students if it removes policy barriers for foreign students to work in China.

The book also suggests China reform its government scholarship program, which banned recipients from taking part-time jobs or living off campus.

Wang Huiyao, director-general of the Center for China and Globalization and one of the editors of the report, said China should encourage cooperation in running universities by simplifying licensing procedures.

"Joint ventures can help boost our educational quality by introducing good overseas resources, teaching philosophies and management, which will surely attract more foreign students," he said.