Study in China as an International Student 👩🏽‍🎓 Your Complete Guide (for 2023)

Your Guide to Studying in China as a Foreigner

Studying in China offers you the chance to immerse yourself in a rich and diverse culture that is unlike any other.

study in China as an international student

In an increasingly globalized world, understanding this unique economic superpower will surely be a resume booster – especially if you learn Mandarin whilst you’re there!

After all, China is a world leader in most things, education included. You can come to China to get your education and also to experience something you likely haven’t been a part of before.

In this article, we will explore why international students should consider studying in China. From the quality of education to the diverse cultural experiences, there are several compelling reasons why China is an excellent destination for international students.

Types of Programs

Factors to Consider

Choosing a College as an International Student


How to Apply for University in China

Tips for Writing Your Application



Deadlines for Universities

Other Considerations

Study in China as an international student — Useful Tips & Things to Avoid

Study in China as an international student — FAQs

Types of Programs

To start off, there are a number of ways to get your Bachelor’s degree in China.

As an international student, it’ll likely be through an English-taught program.

A lot of Chinese universities offer international or English-taught degrees. For example, these universities (and more!) all have well-established international undergraduate programs:

Foreign universities in China are affiliated with their respective international universities.

Unlike the Chinese universities previously mentioned, these are some universities that generally attract a relatively larger international population as they are foreign schools:

Also, since you are an international student, you do not have to take the gaokao (高考), the entrance exam for most (if not all) undergraduate colleges in China for Chinese students.

Skip to Eligibility if you would like to know more about prerequisites and required materials for applying as an international student.

Image of the West Gate at Peking University, Beijing.
Peking University, Beijing

Factors to Consider

Studying abroad in China can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Language: China speaks Chinese (unsurprisingly). Though many universities offer English-taught degrees open to international students, knowing a minimal level of Mandarin would help you out greatly. Even so, cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen are very globalized. Not knowing Mandarin isn’t that big of an issue; you’ll get around just fine. Still, Consider taking language courses before leaving and practicing as much as possible while in China. Also ask yourself, are you open to living somewhere with a foreign culture?
  • Culture shock: China has a unique culture that may differ greatly from what you’re used to. Take time to learn about Chinese customs, traditions, and etiquette to avoid cultural misunderstandings and ease the transition.
  • Qualifications: some universities require prospective students to take an entrance exam, but many do not. It really depends on where you want to go. Though some well-known universities require students to take an entrance exam (similar to Oxbridge), many also do not. Policies differ by university.
  • Equivalent international qualifications: more on this will be said later in Eligibility.
  • Visa requirements: Check the visa requirements and application process well in advance to avoid any complications or delays.
  • Cost of living: China can be an affordable country to live in, but the cost of living can vary depending on the city and lifestyle. Research the cost of accommodation, transportation, food, and other expenses to make sure you can afford to study abroad in China.
  • Health and insurance: It’s essential to have adequate health insurance that covers medical emergencies and accidents while studying in China. Make sure to research the healthcare system and any necessary vaccinations before you go.
  • Support systems: Consider joining a student organization or seeking out resources provided by the university to help you adjust to living in China. Additionally, figure out how you’ll keep in touch with your family and friends back home for emotional support.
If you choose to learn Chinese – don’t make the same mistakes Andreas and Hannah made!

Choosing a College as an International Student

Similarly to how the U.K. has their Russell Group and how the U.S. has their Ivy League, China has its C9 League (九校联盟) and Project 985 (985工程).

Made up of nine and 39 universities respectively, these groups receive a considerable percentage of China’s higher education funding.

More importantly, you should consider many of the same factors when choosing a college in China as you would back home.

  • Does your university offer your major or degree of choice?
  • Do you like your university’s culture—for example, is your school known for its competitive culture?
  • Does your university’s values align with yours?
  • What opportunities would your university offer you?
  • How is the cost of attendance?
  • International students tend to attend universities in more urban areas—how important is location to you, especially one with an urban setting?
  • How well would your university prepare you for your career?
Aerial view photo of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Shanghai Jiao Tong University


In order to apply, you need to have a valid high school or secondary school diploma.

On account of your university, there may be other prerequisites you must meet.

Common ones may include:

  • Standards of education differ among countries. For that reason, it’s important to have other qualifications equivalent to Chinese qualifications as an international student. Specifically, this may includesA-Level scores, IB scores, AP scores, SAT scores, ACT scores, or other nationally accredited exams. Be sure to check out each university’s policies as they differ amongst schools. Additionally, some universities have minimum score requirements.
  • Provided that you are not a native English speaker, you may have to take the TOEFL or IELTS; these tests measure the English proficiency of non-native speakers. However, attending an English-speaking high school or secondary school may waive this requirement.
  • Certain universities require some level of proficiency of Mandarin Chinese. Generally, this can be demonstrated through the Chinese Proficiency Test, the HSK (汉语水平考试).
  • Lastly, some universities require proof of ability of pay. Many require students to have medical insurance; at Peking University and Tsinghua University, medical insurance is 800 CNY per year (about 115 USD, 100 Euros, or 90 Pounds).

Check out our free HSK tests 👉 get an idea of what HSK level you are right now.

How to Apply for University in China

Most Chinese universities offer their own individual applicant portal, which can be easily found through their websites.

Tips for Writing Your Application

In addition to your personal statement, your grades matter a lot.

They determine if you would fit in your university.

After that, your extracurriculars matter as well. Have you participated in any clubs, events, sports, jobs, or anything similar outside of school?

If so, you should consider including that in your application. Awards, certificates, or similar recognitions would be an added bonus.


Generally speaking, tuition costs for an undergraduate education in China—international students included—are far cheaper than those of America.

For 2023, tuition costs for attending Peking University and Tsinghua University as an international student start from 26,000 CNY.

This is about 3,800 USD, 3,500 Euros, or 3000 Pounds.

While different programs have different costs (STEM programs are often more costly than humanities programs), university is usually quite affordable in China.

However, this depends on whether or not you attend a Chinese university or a foreign university (tuition for NYU Shanghai, for instance, is 57,544 USD for the 2023-24 academic year- not including service fees and books!)

Of course, this hasn’t factored in the cost of living in China.

Depending on where you attend school, expenses vary greatly—the cost of living Shanghai and Beijing, for instance, is comparatively higher than Qingdao.

In Beijing, it is estimated that international students will need 1000-1200 USD per month, whilst in Shanghai and Shenzhen you’ll need between 850-1200 USD per month,

In other cities, you could probably spent a minimum of 600 USD per month, but that will only be if you opt for cheaper accommondation like student halls of residence.

Bear in mind this does not factor in international travel fees.


Chinese scholarships for international students can basically be split into three types: government funded, city or province funded, and university funded.

Eligibility and deadline requirements for different scholarships may vary, so be sure to check for that information.

Certain countries also have certain scholarships available to them, so you should also check with your country’s Chinese embassy to see whether you have additional scholarships available to you.

Furthermore, the availability of scholarships from your home country for a university in China is likely to depend on your scholarship provider.

Deadlines for Universities

Overall, deadlines differ by college. Although some have a limited window of time to apply (usually around November to December), others have multiple rounds of applications that end a few months before the start date.

For this reason, be sure to check in with each university’s website individually to make sure you know them.

Notification dates will usually be on their website as well.

Other Considerations

Many universities in China offer dual degree programs.

Check with your university, but this may mean that you have the opportunity to earn two degrees from your chosen university or that you can do so at different locations, often international.

Study in China as an International Student — Useful Tips & Things to Avoid

In general, you should apply early for university!

Not only does this mean you can know of your admission status sooner, it also means that you can rest knowing you have somewhere to go or if you need to continue applying.

Furthermore, the universities you apply to know that they are a good school—don’t go out of your way to flatter.

In any case, there’s a fine line between expressing why you love a particular program a university offers and blatantly kissing up (拍马屁).

Study in China as an International Student — FAQs

Can I go to university in China even if I don’t speak Chinese?

Yes! While not all universities may allow you to (some universities require some degree of proficiency), many allow international students to attend, given that they meet the English requirement. Knowing Mandarin wouldn’t hurt, though.

Do I need to take the 高考 gaokao?

As an international student, no. However, you will likely need to submit other academic qualifications.

When should I apply by?

Ideally, as early as possible. Check with your university to see their deadlines; some are as early as December whilst others may be in July.

What do I need to apply?

High school or secondary school diploma, personal statement, international academic qualifications, etc. Some universities require TOEFL or IELTS scores if you are not a native English speaker, and some require some level of Chinese proficiency depending on the program.

Is it expensive to study and live in China?

Relatively speaking, no. If you study at a Chinese university like Peking University, tuition for a humanities degree in 2020 was around 3,705 USD or 3,285 Euros. Their estimated cost of living as a student was 7,850 USD and 6,965 Euros.

This may be higher if you study at a foreign university such as NYU Shanghai or Duke Kunshan.

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  1. Robert

    Do I need to take the HSK test to get into university in China?

    1. Angela

      Hi Robert,

      This depends on the university. Definitely take a look at their international requirements as it differs.


  2. Is China open in 2021?

    1. Max Hobbs

      Right now it isn’t Indy but we hope soon!

  3. Bhie Chinese Tutor

    Great piece! This is helpful for students like me.

    1. Max Hobbs

      Love to hear it 🙂