Why do Chinese students choose to study in Russia?
There are two questions: firstly, why do Chinese students choose to study abroad? Secondly, why do the students decide to study in Russia? Let's analyze them one by one
Firstly, why do Chinese students choose to study abroad?

The earliest study abroad industry in China dates back to the late Qing Dynasty and the initial wave of study abroad caused by the Westernization movement. After the 1980s, self-funded study abroad was allowed. With economic development and population growth, China has always maintained an encouraging attitude and opinion about the creation of international talents, and the number of people traveling abroad has always grown. According to the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China, the total number of Chinese students studying abroad in 2019 reached more than 700,000 people, an increase of more than 6% compared to the previous year. In 2020, it is difficult to calculate the data due to the impact of the pandemic, but according to previous years, it is clear that, regardless of the specific causes of the pandemic, the overall growth rate of the foreign student contingent has increased very quickly. From 1978 to 2019, the total number of Chinese students studying abroad reached more than 6.56 million people, more than 4.9 million people completed their studies, more than 86% of graduates returned to the country for development.

With the constant increase in the number of students studying abroad, it has become a way to expand knowledge, enrich life, study advanced knowledge and technologies and increase competitiveness in the labor market. This is another option in addition to staying in the country to continue further studies.

Secondly, why do Chinese students choose to study in Russia?

According to the Russian Department of Education and Scientific Supervision, in 2019, China has sent 24,226 students to Russian universities, which is 23.6% more than in 2018, making it the largest source of foreign students in Russia.

More and more Chinese students are choosing to study in Russia, mainly for the following reasons:

  1. China and Russia have established a "comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in a new era", the "One Belt, One Road" initiative and broad employment prospects;
  2. In comparison with other European and American countries, the total cost of studying in Russia is low and economically profitable;
  3. Low entrance grade point, simple admission procedures, no university entrance exam results required, no certificate of deposit required;
  4. There are many educational resources and many specialties to choose from. Chinese students studying at Russian universities choose the majority of specialties in the field of humanities and social sciences, Russian language, economics and management, engineering and technology.

Although the number of people studying in Russia currently reaches almost 30,000 and has continued to grow in recent years, compared with 300,000 people studying in the United States and 150,000 people studying in the United Kingdom, for Chinese, Russia is still a niche destination for studying abroad.

As you can see from the information table for foreign students in 2019, in terms of the distribution of specialties, the share of students — specialists of the Russian language accounts for 31% of the total, the share of specialists in economic management accounts for 22%, the share of students of other humanities accounts for 29%, the share of technical, medical and natural sciences — for 18%. Students studying in Russia are very concentrated in the fields of humanities and social sciences (82%), and even more concentrated in the Russian language and economic management (53%). Such distribution of specialties does not correspond either to Russia's status as a major scientific and technical power, nor to the full priority areas of cooperation between China and Russia.
The reason is that, firstly, China has a relatively weak understanding of Russian higher education within the country, which leads to the fact that foreign students choose a study field focusing more on domestic education and employment prospects, rather than on areas beneficial to Russia; Secondly, the low entry grade point. Many foreign students have only secondary education before going abroad, they are not good at independent study and do not have a basis for vocational training.
It is said that the difficulty of learning is still higher, and one year of preparatory training is not enough to achieve a level of fluency in Russian language. The language barrier affects the subsequent in-depth study, and many foreign students still have an unsatisfactory level of the language, even at the end of their studies.

For a more active and healthy development o f studying abroad business between China and Russia, I am putting forward the following proposals, hoping to attract more attention and discussion.

Firstly, when students choose a destination country to study abroad, rich, comprehensive and up-to-date information is the best advertising language. When conducting an advertising campaign, Russian universities can increase multimedia advertising and enrich it with photographs, videos and other advertising materials, so that Chinese educational agencies also update higher education materials in Russia in a timely manner and improve the professional level of specialists so that more Chinese students can clearly and timely understand the current state of higher education in Russia.

Secondly, Chinese international students tend to enroll at a younger age. Learning a new language in a completely unfamiliar environment alone at a young age places high demands on the psychological qualities of students. On the example of universities in Europe and the USA, a joint training project "international class" was created, so that students can master basic Russian in high school in China, and have a preliminary understanding of the culture of Russia. If they go to study abroad, they can adapt faster to subsequent studies and life, already having a good basic knowledge.

Thirdly, Russian universities have created preparatory training programs for foreign students, but in real observations it turns out that since the teachers of the preparatory school use Russian in their lectures, for those who do not have a language base at all, a large number of students said that learning is more difficult, and the difficulties of learning Russian accompany the entire stage of training. As a foreign education agent working for many years, I recommend that foreign students take introductory Russian language courses under the guidance of Chinese teachers in a timely manner after confirming their intention to study abroad. When they enter the preparatory course, it is clearly easier for them, they understand everything better and they are more motivated to study Russian than those who immediately enter preparatory courses with zero language level.

Nowadays, more and more Russian universities show great interest in enrolling students from China, and more and more young people from China, choosing destination countries for study, can also take the initiative to get to know Russia. As Chinese-Russian agent for studying abroad, I can be a bridge connecting both sides, timely and effectively inform about the needs of both sides and solve them in a coordinated manner. It is possible that more and more foreign students from China and Russia will study and exchange with each other, which will also contribute to the continuous progress of world civilization.
Tong Yi,
Specialist of the consulting company QIONGQI which provides training services in Russia, South Korea, Japan, including language training. Graduated from Xi'an University of Foreign Languages with a degree in Russian Language and Literature. Has been working in the field of recruiting for 7 years.