International student education in China : characteristics, challenges, and future trends

Jiani MA, Kai ZHAO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


International student education in China has been continuously changing in response to the rapid social transition since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. Adopting a historical perspective, this scholarly paper begins with an analysis of characteristics of international student education in China in terms of rationales, role of government, and international students. Several challenges are then identified and this paper concludes with observations on future trends of international student education development, with a special focus on the implications of “the Belt and Road”. This paper contributes to a better understanding of China’s role as an emerging host nation of international students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-751
Number of pages17
JournalHigher Education
Issue number4
Early online date3 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Entering the 1980s, the government gradually delegated the power of recruitment, management, and teaching to institutions. From the 1990s in particular, the government adopted a series of laws, regulations, and overseas study policies for international student education to develop on its own within the framework of law. In Oct 1985, the Ministry of Education and other agencies adopted the Methods for Management of International Students, stipulating that “various universities and colleges...can accept international students through interscholastic exchanges or other means”. HEIs can now recruit international students on their own, which is not only permitted but even strongly encouraged. In 1986, the Ministry of Education issued Select Provisions on Study by International Students in China, noting that “the Ministry...encourages Chinese institution of higher education to establish interscholastic contacts and swap students”. In March 1989, the Ministry of Education submitted to the State Council Proposals on Education of International Students in China in the Future to “establish a China Scholarship Council and to assign acceptance and management of international students gradually to the non-government scholarship council. The government shall not be involved anymore”. The proposals were endorsed and were put into practice through subsequent reform plans. Establishment of the China Scholarship Council was a great opportunity and mechanism for further reforming international student education. When the scholarship council, a non-governmental legal entity, assumed responsibility for routine operations, the conditions were ready for the government to shift its functions to strengthening macro-level management. In the same year, the Ministry of Education issued Regulations on Recruiting Self-funded International Students, further noting that HEIs with favourable conditions can obtain approval in recruiting self-funded international students, and local HEIs can obtain approval from local authorities to recruit and enroll international students, further delegating authority in international student education to the schools.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.


  • China
  • Education policy
  • International student
  • International student education
  • Internationalization of higher education


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