The Ministry of Education recently released the latest statistics on foreign students in China.
In 2003, some 77,715 foreign students from 175 countries were studying in 353 universities and other educational institutes scattered throughout 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. The figures exclude Taiwan Province and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.
The Chinese government provided scholarships for 6,153 of the students, while the remainder were responsible for their own funding. About 31 percent, or 24,616, were pursuing degrees.
More than 45 percent of the students, 35,353 in all, came from South Korea. There were 12,765 Japanese students and 3,693 from the United States.
Foreign students in China continued to concentrate in municipalities and provinces with more colleges and universities, such as Beijing (29,332 foreign students), Shanghai (13,858) and Tianjin (4,952).
China received its first batch of 33 foreign students from Eastern Europe in 1950. More than half a century later, people who once studied in China are now dispersed through 170 countries around the world.
While it admits that statistics are incomplete, the Ministry of Education reports that more than 30 of the students who returned to their home countries from China are now holding ministerial-level posts. Over 10 have returned as ambassadors to China while another 30 are holding other high positions in their countries’ embassies here. About 120 are professors or associate professors, and hundreds are project managers or commercial deputies in cultural, economic and trade entities of their countries engaged in activities with China.
Former students who return to China to participate in diplomatic, business, education or other types of exchange are an important bridge promoting interaction between China and the world.
More and more universities and colleges are prepared to accommodate the rapidly growing number of foreign students coming here. Even in 2003, when China was affected by the SARS epidemic, the number of new foreign students seeking degrees grew 17 percent.
It is a winning situation from which China, the students and their home countries benefit.
The number of students providing their own funding, already over 90 percent, continues to rise.
China now has tried-and-true methods for managing its foreign students. They may choose from a wide range of subjects for study, including literature, history, philosophy, economics, law, education, science, agriculture and medicine. Many universities have begun to explore the use of bilingual education for their foreign students.
Ministry of Education believes that China has huge potential to further develop this sector. To that end, in 2004 the ministry will begin implementing its plan to attract 120,000 foreign students to China by 2007, while further improving the comprehensive medical insurance system as well as living and study conditions for students from abroad.
(China.org.cn March 19, 2004)