Chinese Students Start to Look Beyond the UK

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Success of new website amongst Chinese students explains the alarming fall in recruitment from China for British universities

A website about UK education, started by a British man in Shanghai, has become popular on campuses throughout China as students there start to ask, ‘is the UK still worth it?’ It comes at a time that universities across Britain are facing up to the reality of a sudden and unexpected decline in recruitment from the communist powerhouse.

For 10 years the number of Chinese students in all of Britain’s 100-plus universities, as well as colleges and schools, has soared. They have changed the face of British education, as institutions throughout the country rushed to recruit from, and establish links with, China

UK government figures show that the number of Chinese students in Britain grew from 3,000 entering in 1996 to a total of over 57,000 in 2004. With a British Council report predicting continued growth to the year 2020, vice-chancellors across the land seemed safe in the knowledge that China could plug any shortfall in government funding. And so alarm bells were set ringing when 4 out 5 British universities saw a drop in Chinese recruitment for 2005.

The drop was not expected and will be of tremendous concern to most institutions many of which, according to a 2004 Chatham House report, are now financially dependent upon recruitment from China. The report gave an example of one well-known university receiving income from China equivalent to 29% of that which the British government provides.

According to Kieran Costigan, founder of how2uk.com (http://www.how2uk.com/English), only the universities which appreciate the reasons behind the drop will be able to avoid the fallout, “the fees are high and few universities are able to prove the value of their course to a prospective Chinese student” says Kieran who is based in Shanghai and started the website last year, “To an extent many universities were guilty of cashing in on China and now they are being faced with the consequences as graduates start to return to China and find they are not so special in the job market”.    

The Chinese language website allows students to view figures on all the UK’s universities and to get answers to questions such as, ‘why is the course so expensive, what have been the postgraduate fortunes of your Chinese alumni and does the course have any links with industry? “I started the site”, says Kieran, “because it didn’t seem fair that Chinese students, who are being asked to pay tuition fees as much as four times that of their EU classmates, do not have access to the kind of facts & figures about British education that a UK student would take for granted”.

“In the past students in China did not care about these questions, there was a feeling that all British universities were great and a UK degree would guarantee a bright future but people are much more savvy now. The site has become popular because it answers these questions at a time when people are starting to question whether or not it is really worth going to the UK to study”.

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Kieran Costigan
HOW2UK.COM
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