Back in 2011, being an undergraduate student of the International Relations program at Tomsk State University, I thought about continuing my education and getting a Master's degree at a foreign university. Since one of three foreign languages that I studied was Chinese, the choice fell on the universities of China and Taiwan. Despite the fact that my alma mater and Taiwanese Feng Chia University had a double Master's degree program, the conditions of the scholarship program would not allow me, a scholarship student, to study without looking back at the financial side of living in expensive Taiwan.
Thanks to the TSU Confucius Institute we learned about Chinese government scholarships for international students. Then there was a very little information about this scholarship, also half of the friends who could potentially get it decided that it was impossible, and thus reduced the competition for us — those who decided to try their hand. After choosing universities in the Laihua system (Chinese website for supporting foreign students), collecting the necessary documents, and sending them to China, a period of anxious waiting began.
The good news came a few months later. Two out of three universities that I chose were ready to accept me for a Master's program in Tourism Management. One of them was Ocean University of China (Qingdao), and since I had studied at a language school in the province of Shandong before, I had a special feeling for it so I chose the OUC without hesitation. A few months later in August 2012 I arrived at the "Green Island" (exactly translation of the Qingdao name from Chinese), where I started my three-year life as an international student in China.
Two years earlier the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China adopted a policy of attracting international students, the strategic priorities of which were to increase the number of international students in China, increase the number of Chinese government scholarships for international students, subsidize research conducted in China by students from developing countries, and increase the number of degree programs taught in foreign languages in Chinese universities. Numerical indicators were also established: by 2020 the number of international students should have reached 500 thousand students. Looking ahead, I want to say that in 2019 this number reached 492,185 students, and China came third in the world in terms of the number of foreigners studying at its universities.
The question arises: what is the Chinese government doing so special that every year the number of foreign students coming to this country is growing by leaps and bounds?
First of all, it is a scholarship support. There are many scholarships for short-term Chinese language courses and research degree programs ranging from urban and provincial programs and ending with the Confucius Institute scholarship and scholarships of the PRC Government. The latter, which I received, not only covered the cost of tuition, living in a dormitory in a single room, and medical insurance but also included monthly allowance in the amount of the subsistence level, which in 2012 for Master's students was RMB1,700 per month (about US$270), and in 2014 it was increased to RMB3,000 (US$472). This amount was quite enough to cover the meals expenses and purchase of basic necessities. Since in China it is forbidden to carry out any work activity while staying here on the X1/X2 (study) visa, the amount of monthly payments was calculated so that the foreign student would feel comfortable even without part-time jobs and could concentrate on the educational process.
Second, the cost of education in Chinese universities even without a scholarship is low relatively to the level of fees in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe so the number of students on a paid basis already increases every year.
Thirdly, back in 2011, the Chinese government signed agreements on the mutual recognition of qualifications and degrees with more than 30 countries around the world, which allowed graduates to count on employment after graduation from a Chinese university, not only in China, but also abroad.
Fourth, there are many English-taught degree programs for those who have never studied Chinese. And if you still want to study in Chinese but you do not speak it, then you may be offered a scholarship program which includes a foundation year for learning Chinese after which you can proceed to studying on the chosen degree program.
Fifth, for young people with families wishing to get education in China, visa support for family members is provided by the host university. For example, while studying at the OUC, I met many students from Pakistan, India, and African countries who came to China with their spouses and children.
The network of Confucius Institutes which currently consists of 540 units opened in more than 80 countries of the world promotes Chinese education at the state level. The goal of the organization is to actively promote the study of Chinese language and culture abroad which, of course, also contributes to attracting foreign students to study and conduct research in China.
At present, the priorities of the educational policy of China are further internationalization, enhancement of exchange programs with universities of the world, as well as development of cooperation in the field of education at the levels of cities, provinces, and states. Considering the significant progress of the reform of the last ten years, we can safely say that this is only the beginning of the process of globalization of Chinese education, which attracts an increasing number of foreign students from year to year.