The Weird and Wonderful World of Universities in China

The Weird and Wonderful World of Universities in China
May 15, 2018 By Niklas Westerlund ,

Thinking about going to university in China? Well, you're in luck! China is now home to nearly 3,000 universities, with few countries in the world able to match the amount and speed at which new higher education institutions are built in the Middle Kingdom. Here's our quick guide to the weird and wonderful world of universities in China.

Photo: Wikimedia

What do I need to know?

In some ways, China's tertiary education system is pretty familiar. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time studies, and a master's degree takes an additional one to two years on top. Each academic year is centered around two semesters, with winter breaks, summer breaks and public holidays off.

Every semester, students will get credits for coursework, ranging from 1 to 8 credits per course, depending on the university, size and scope of the course and the province. Since China is China, you can expect there to be plenty of local variations. And let's not even bring Hong Kong into this!

Attending university in China is not free, despite what the political system might have you think. The good thing is that it's incredibly cheap, compared to America and the UK at least.

Expect to pay between 12,000 and 40,000 RMB per academic year at universities in China. You might have to increase that figure tenfold for some programs in the medical and engineering fields, however. You can expect large local variations here, too.

Interestingly enough though, the more prestigious Chinese universities are not necessarily the most expensive. The more prestigious the university, the more funding it will receive from the government and private/ SoE companies, all in good communist tradition.


So, can I take university courses on a work/spouse visa?

Unfortunately, no. And we hate to bring this up again, but China's visa regulations are getting increasingly strict. Legally speaking you're not allowed to study on a work visa, and vice-versa. Each visa gives you one ability in the Middle Kingdom; live with your spouse and do nothing else (Q or S visa), study (X or F visa), work (Z or M visa), or be a tourist (L).

But taking a university course on the side of your spousing or working shouldn't awaken the ire of the local police, just as taking a part-time job while studying is yet to be faced with much scrutiny. It's nothing we endorse or encourage anyone to do, however.


What courses can I take, and how will they benefit me?

The courses you can apply for will vary greatly depending on your Chinese proficiency and location. Chinese University catalogues, even the English versions, are notoriously difficult to navigate. Those who prevail, however, can find some pretty interesting programs.

For example, the world-renowned Peking University offers a single-credit course in “Chinese Shuttlecock Expertise”. The very same university also offers a course in “Exercise, Nutrition and Weight Losing”. It might be a case of bad translation, but these two do sound pretty symptomatic of Chinese fitness standards.

Fudan University, another famous Chinese university situated in Shanghai, offers a two-credit course ambiguously named “Women Choir”. Whether or not you have to be female to apply is unclear.

But as you delve further into smaller Chinese universities you may find their English websites become increasingly incomprehensible, with a liberal sprinkling of broken links. As a rule of thumb, the more obscure the university, the less “international” they will be, meaning that your Chinese proficiency has to be high enough to take courses taught in Mandarin, which typically requires HSK 6 or above.

Whether or not some of China's more obscure university courses will benefit you in the long run is anyone's guess. But to be on the safe side, it's probably best if you consider such programs as an adventure and a means to personal growth. It's doubtful that future employers will consider your shuttlecock skills as relevant, even if you obtained them at Peking University.

Naturally, most foreigner who come to China to study are learning Mandarin.


How to finance your studies

As already mentioned, programs are cheap in China as it is. But be aware that some English-taught courses are only open to exchange students and not visiting students (the difference between the two is sometimes hard to distinguish).

Exchange students are already students in another country, where bilateral agreements allow them to study for free in China. Visiting students are self-financed students not necessarily sent by another university.

Some European countries have state-sponsored student loans you can apply for as a visiting student in China. You don't even have to be a student in your home country for that.

Americans are less lucky in this regard. On the flip side, there are typically many more scholarships available in the US. Many companies act as intermediaries for foreigners wanting to go to university in China. It's a convenient option but it will cost you!


In summation, studying is always a good idea, regardless of what you study and where. Whether you're doing it for personal growth or to advance your career, China's academia sector is the fastest growing in the world, and the quality of the education is constantly improving. But while the best universities in China are among the best in the world, smaller institutions are still lagging behind.

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Keywords: universities in china


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I wanna go CHinese University

May 28, 2018 10:23 Report Abuse



Universities are institutions of higher learning. There is nothing weird about them. Please remove the word "weird" or replace it with a respectable term.

May 20, 2018 06:23 Report Abuse