UK students look East for studies
Updated: 2011-10-29 08:11
By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)
LONDON - Faced with rising fees this year at British universities, more students in the UK may consider attending Chinese institutions.
"It (rising tuition fees) is pushing me away," said 26-year-old Kari Hakala, a Finnish student pursuing a bachelor's degree in business management at Worcester University.
As an international officer at the student union of his university, Hakala campaigned several times against rising tuition fees in the UK.
The Study in China Exhibition & Student Forum, the first-ever Chinese higher education show in the UK, was held in central London on Friday. Fifteen Chinese universities were represented, including top ones such as Peking University.
The half-day event attracted dozens of students. For many of them, rising tuition fees in the UK is the main reason they are considering institutions outside the country.
The number of UK-born university applicants for next September - when fees will increase to up to 9,000 pounds ($14,500) a year - has plummeted by almost 12 percent, official figures show.
The first set of statistics on applications to universities for next year, published by the Universities and Colleges and Admissions Service, reveal that 52,321 applicants have applied from within the UK, compared with 59,413 this time last year.
Apart from rising fees, Hakala said his interest in China also drew him to the exhibition.
Studying in China is like "learning a different culture", he said, adding the experience would help him "better understand China". Hakala said he is considering institutions in Shanghai, where his girlfriend lives, and said his long-term ambition is "starting a business in China".
Matt Wills, a 21-year-old history student at Oxford University, is also interested in China. Wills, from Hampshire in South England, began teaching himself Mandarin before entering Oxford.
"I want to be in China, really. I don't want to learn my Chinese history in Oxford or in America. I want to learn Chinese history in China," said Wills, whose dream college is Peking University.
Like Hakala, Wills said cheaper fees in China is "one consideration, but not the main reason".
"But I do think the fees are quite an attraction for students from abroad," Wills said, adding he may spend 25,000 pounds on everything for a one-year master's degree at Oxford.
China ranks first in the world in sending students overseas. Ministry of Education statistics also show that 284,700 Chinese students went abroad in 2010.
More than 120,000 Chinese students are studying in the UK, making them the largest single overseas student group.
In comparison, only around 3,000 British students are studying in China, according to the British Council and the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE).
More than 260,000 international students were studying in China in 2010, said Bai Zhangde, director general of CSCSE. About 100,000 of them were enrolled in degree programs.
Li Ye, deputy dean of the School of International Education at Chengdu-based University of Electronic Science and Technology of China (UESTC), said his university would offer language courses and three science degree programs to overseas students.
The UESTC, which has more than 26,000 students, hosts about 400 international students, and none of them are British.
Li said the goal of the UESTC by attending the event is to establish more scholarly exchange programs with UK universities, but added it also would be a lot cheaper to do a separate degree in China.
According to Li, the UESTC charges roughly 20,000 yuan ($3,146) for each academic year for master's students in science degrees.