Record Numbers of Students Choosing China for Study Abroad: Report Examines China's Rapid Rise as an Academic Destination

  • A record breaking 397,635 international students went to China in 2015, solidifying its position as the third most popular destination country for overseas students
  • China is now ahead of France and Germany and if current growth rates continue, could challenge the UK as the world’s second most popular destination by 2020
  • 40% of degree-seeking international students studying in China received government scholarships in 2015

LONDON & SHANGHAI--()--A new report today reveals that the perception of China among international students has undergone a noticeable shift, with the country becoming a hotbed for international study. Research gathered by, the world’s leading marketplace for overseas student accommodation, highlights that international students are increasingly choosing to go to China to study for a full degree.

China to become second most popular destination?

Over the last ten years, the number of international students in China has more than doubled. Growing faster than the international student population of any other leading destination, China has become the third-largest destination country behind the US and the UK for international students worldwide. China is now ahead of Canada in fourth place, Germany in fifth and France in sixth.

The most popular destinations for international students

1. USA; 974,926 international students in 2015

2. UK; 436,880

3. China; 397,635

4. Canada; 336,497

5. Germany; 321,569

6. France; 298,902

Despite a recent slowdown, China is seeing faster growth than the world’s two leading destinations, the USA and the UK. If last year’s growth rates in the UK and China continue then China will challenge the UK’s position as the world’s second most popular destination for international students by 2020.’s research also shows that, of the 397,635 international students studying in China in 2015, 10,436 were French; equivalent to 3% of all international students in the country and an increase of more than 6,500 compared to 2006.

Boost in academic reputation’s report analyses collated data from official bodies, administrative organisations and educational institutions for the first time, identifying the trends behind China’s rise in popularity with international students. While China is seeing a steady increase in international student numbers, the strongest growth has been among degree-seeking students, whose share has increased from 34% to 46% in the past three years. Similarly, among this group, the strongest growth in enrolment is at the post-graduate and doctorate levels, suggesting that China is becoming a more attractive research environment.

The international standing of Chinese universities has also improved dramatically over the past five years, with the number of Chinese universities included in major global university rankings rising significantly. This is a key factor in China’s ability to compete with other top university destinations such as the USA, UK, France and Germany.

Government support drives growth

The report also shows the extent to which the Chinese government has fostered this development, both by improving the quality of higher education across the country and by increasing the number of scholarship programs for degree-seeking full-time students: in 2015, 40% of all international students new to China received government sponsorship.

The report concludes that China’s international student population is only set to increase further. Currently international students only make up only 1.1% of the total student population in China, a much smaller percentage than in the other top six destinations

Percentage of international students within higher education

  • China; 1.1%
  • USA; 4.8%
  • Germany; 11.7%
  • France; 12.8%
  • UK; 19.3%
  • Canada; 21.9%

Zhou Dong, CEO of China's University and College Admission System (CUCAS), the official application portal for international students in China, said:

“The number of international students in China has increased year-on-year, supporting a positive, mutual understanding between China and other cultures. In the past two years, the Chinese government has actively increased the availability of scholarships, made it possible for foreign students to take on part-time work, simplified Visa processes and standardised the assessment of international degrees. All these are important measures to promote education for international students in China.”

Luke Nolan, co-founder and CEO of, said:

“Over the years that we’ve been working here, it has been fascinating to see China become a hugely popular student destination and a powerful force in international education. We’re always monitoring trends in student demand, and since I studied here in 2005, there’s been a noticeable shift in the way that overseas students perceive Chinese higher education. We expect the student housing market in China to develop and grow in tandem with this development, offering unprecedented opportunities for developers of private, purpose-built student accommodation.”

Read’s blog and download the full report on China as an international student destination here:

You can also download images from the report here:


About is the world’s leading marketplace for international student accommodation. The company seeks to simplify booking accommodation for international students through a free-to-use global marketplace which puts security and ease-of-use first. Every landlord listed has a contractual relationship with, ensuring additional security and peace of mind, and students have access to local knowledge of destination countries, as well as a team of multilingual booking experts. lists properties in over 400 cities across 29 countries. To date, the company has raised $60 million from investors including VY Capital, Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures, Expa, Spotify founders Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Hugo Barra of Xiaomi and Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital.

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