Asian locales on rise as overseas study options

Survey attributes changes to students favoring more friendly destinations

Primary school students celebrate the end of the summer term in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in June 2019. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

A growing number of students from the Chinese mainland are choosing to study in Asia, in places where they can enjoy friendlier environments with similar cultures at relatively lower costs, while at the same time the United States, though still the most favored destination, saw a significant drop in its popularity, according to a recent report.

Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore have become popular destinations for Chinese students pursuing their studies outside of the mainland, the report said.

For students pursuing undergraduate degrees or lower, Hong Kong and Japan were tied as the fourth most popular destinations this year, favored by 15 percent of the surveyed students, followed by Singapore with 14 percent.

In 2019, only 10 percent of students chose Hong Kong, and 9 percent chose Japan and Singapore.

The US, the United Kingdom and Canada clinched the top three spots.

While the US remained the most favored overseas study destination for undergraduates in this year's report, chosen by 34 percent of respondents, this was a drop from 45 percent in 2019.

The percentage of students going to the UK and Canada remained relatively unchanged over the past five years.

For students pursuing postgraduate studies, the trend is similar.

The percentage of students going to the US for postgraduate studies dropped from 45 to 30 percent from 2019 to 2023, while those going to Hong Kong increased from 14 to 22 percent, and Singapore from 9 to 15 percent.

The UK remained the most popular overseas study destination for postgraduates in 2023, surpassing the US for the fourth consecutive year.

The report was based on a survey conducted by Vision Overseas Consulting Co, a subsidiary of New Oriental Education and Technology Group, of 9,551 students who plan to go to school overseas. The report has been released annually for the past nine years.

The report found that almost half the respondents said they would prefer to go to destinations with a favorable attitude toward China, and one-third said they would consider applying to go to schools in various countries and regions.

Lin Xiaoya, a senior high school student at Changchun Foreign Languages School in Jilin province, said she plans to study in Singapore for her undergraduate studies due to the similarity in culture, beautiful scenery and the country's strength in higher education.

She said she wants to major in a STEM field such as math or computer science, and felt that her chances of being admitted to a college in the US or the UK were slim.

"It is almost common knowledge that top universities in the US and UK only admit a very small number of Chinese students for science majors, and even if they do, they would prefer students who have already studied abroad during high school."

Chen Yihan, 25, had thought about studying at a US university for postgraduate studies, yet due to various reasons he studied at Imperial College London in 2021 and returned to work at an internet company in Beijing last year.

"I wanted to major in chip technology, and it is common for the US government to put visa restrictions on Chinese students majoring in the sector, and studying in the UK does not have that problem," he said.

"I also worry about my safety as there are many gun shooting incidents in the US."