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Industry Overview

The market for education services remains strong. Clearly, there is a need for firms in China to advance the skills of the workforce. Additionally, the number of Chinese students and employees studying abroad has grown dramatically. Recent data indicates that U.S. colleges and universities still remain the preferred overseas destination for those students. Short-term training programs or workshops in specialized fields as well as business education are particularly sought after. U.S. educational organizations can also sell teaching materials and equipment, convey the latest methodologies and case studies, lend or exchange faculty, and provide educational consulting services.

In 2011-2012 academic year, there were 194,029 students from China studying in the United States, representing a 23% increase from the year before and a 207% increase from a decade previous. That upward trend is expected to continue along with rising Chinese incomes. China is the leading country of origin for international students coming to the United States. The majority of Chinese students studying in the United States are graduate students, around 46%. That percentage reflects a decrease over the last couple of years as more and more Chinese students come to the United States for undergraduate degrees. Around 38%of Chinese students are undergraduates. Other countries, namely Britain, Australia, and Canada, compete aggressively against U.S. education institutions in China. However, the tendency for Chinese students to prefer U.S. schools over other countries is high.


Many experts believe that e-learning is ideal for China because it solves much of China’s education needs. With its limited education resources, China can use long distance learning to educate its 200 million elementary and high school students. To that end, in October 2000 China’s Ministry of Education launched the “All Schools Connected” project, which aimed to equip all of China’s 550,871 K-12 schools with e-learning systems by 2010. The Ministry also encouraged 67 top universities to offer e-learning degrees to produce more talent for the country’s burgeoning economy. The nation’s very best high schools can also create Internet schools to train teachers and tutor students in far-flung regions. Private companies also heeded the e-learning call; many now offer vocational training and certification exam preparation online. The export opportunities for U.S. firms on China’s e-learning market are K-12 content provider and foreign certification training.

Joint Degree Programs:

In recent years, the opportunity to pursue a foreign-style education in China across many disciplines has increased due to the extraordinary growth of Sino-Foreign joint schools and degree-granting programs. Undergraduate Chinese students are taking part in “1-2-1” or “2+2” programs. These programs, offered by their home Chinese university, provide students the chance to spend some time at a university abroad. Foreign universities use this arrangement to tap into China’s market for overseas study.

Despite the large, ever increasing number of Chinese undergraduate students in the U.S., the majority of Chinese students studying in the United States, approximately around 46% percent, are post-graduate students. Chinese post-graduate students often use joint degree programs to further their studies abroad. Many of these joint degree programs are U.S. MBA programs. Presently, the U.S. leads the market in providing joint venture MBA and EMBA programs in China, but competition from European, Canadian, and Australian organizations is increasing.

U.S. institutions will have to remain active in the promotion of American education in China, as competition for Chinese students from other English-speaking countries increases and as the expansion of the domestic education market in China creates an increasing number of opportunities for students to pursue higher education without leaving China. With this is mind, University admissions officers should be aware of and counsel prospective students on visa procedures affecting travel to the United States. Information on visa procedures can be found in the Market Research Report link found below.

Market Entry:

Well-known colleges and universities have greater name recognition and thus require less active student recruiting programs. Meanwhile, in a brand conscious market, less well-known schools must implement active and strategic recruitment programs to establish credibility in China’s increasingly savvy education market. Access to China’s overseas study market is generally accessed through the following channels:

Direct Recruitment via Education Fairs: Schools that opt for direct student recruitment usually participate in any number of China’s international and domestic education fairs. Selected fairs target different market segments – i.e. undergraduate versus graduate students, so it is important for U.S. schools to find the fair that better fits their needs.

Recruitment via Partner Organization: Some schools also partner with local universities or recruitment/overseas advising centers to recruit students. As foreign universities have become a magnet for Chinese students, a cottage industry of agencies, brokers, and go-between firms has developed. In recent years, the Chinese government has moved to license such companies. CS China can assist U.S. universities in connecting with authorized recruitment agencies and overseas advising centers. These organizations vary in scope but generally provide information on foreign universities and offer guidance with assessment tests, school application materials, passport, and visa procedures. They can also serve as an active recruitment agent promoting particular foreign universities. Services are provided on either a commission basis or paid by the student. Schools should beware of “visa touts” (unauthorized individuals/organizations that claim to be legal agents) by carefully screening potential partners to ensure that they are actively involved and legitimate student recruiters.

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Reports and Statistics

Market for Chinese Student Recruitment

Management Education Market in Eastern China

South China Education Newsletter Series (Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4, Vol 5, Vol 6, Vol 7, Vol 8, Vol 9, Vol 10, Vol 11)

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U.S. Commercial Service Contacts

The U.S. Commercial Service offers a broad array of market entry services to U.S. companies in the education, media and entertainment industries. Please refer to the following relevant contacts for additional information on how we can help you expand your business in China.

Beijing Office:
Tel: (86-10)8531-3000
Fax: (86-10)8531-3701
Maggie Qiu

Shanghai Office:
Tel: (86-21)6279-7630
Fax: (86-21)6279-7639
Yuan Liu

Guangzhou Office:
Tel: (86-20)3814-5000
Fax: (86-20)3814-5310
Veronica Liang

Chengdu Office:
Tel: (86-28)8558-3992
Fax: (86-28)8558-3991
Liping Lin

Shenyang Office:
Tel: (86-24) 2321-1198
Fax: (86-24) 2321-2206
Yang Liu

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