USA Most Popular Study Abroad Destination for Chinese Students

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The results of search behaviour of 39,896 Chinese students reveals the US remains the most favoured destination and business the most popular program of study.

What this data reveals is although there is increasing competition to recruit Chinese students around the world and within China itself, the interest from Chinese students in studying abroad and particularly coming to the US remains undiminished

Data generated by the search behaviour of 39,896 Chinese students conducted in August 2010 through the Chinese website part of the Hotcourses Abroad international portfolio of recruitment sites, has revealed that 36.4% of Chinese students select the US as their first choice of country to study abroad in. The UK came second chosen by 18.1% of students, then Australia (8.8%), then Singapore (3.8%), Malaysia (1%) and finally just under 1% choosing New Zealand. The balance (31.3%) was made up of those selecting anywhere in the “rest of the world” outside of named countries.

For the US and the UK, the ratios of those expressing an interest in studying abroad and those that have enrolled are broadly consistent with 98,235 Chinese enrolled at US institutions in 2008/09 and 47,035 in UK institutions for the same period, although not for Australia where there are 130,000 Chinese students in education which, proportionately is far higher than those now actively searching programs and schools there, potentially indicating a future decline in enrolment numbers.

In the USA the majority of Chinese students are searching for graduate programs (66.3%) compared to those interested in studying at an undergraduate level (13.55%). Interestingly, despite growth of the internet, new technology and the prediction of online as a growing means of program delivery, only 4.6% expressly searched for online programs with the balance of 95.4% looking specifically for campus-based. Some commentators say the reason for this heavy bias towards campus-based programs is a perception amongst students and their future employers that an online degree does not carry the same weight of quality. In addition, those students prepared to invest tens of thousands of dollars for an overseas degree, want to combine that with the cultural experience of spending time abroad as well, particularly as tuition prices between online and campus-based programs are often very similar.

The top 10 most popular subject areas of interest making up 87.4% of total searches were:

Business 21.1%
Engineering and technology 11%
Sciences 9%
Social studies 8.4%
Creative arts 7.9%
Medicine 7.7%
Computers and math 7.1%
Education 5.3%
Humanities 5.2%
Travel and tourism 4.7%

Again this is consistent with actual enrolment behaviour with business and management being the top field of study in the USA for international students in 2009/09 followed by engineering and the physical and life sciences. This suggests the trend of subjects future Chinese students will want to study, will remain consistent with those subjects that are already popular.

In terms of traffic origination and most dense regions from which Chinese students are searching study abroad options in the USA, the highest was Beijing (19.2% of searches), Guangdong (10.3%), Shanghai (8.7%), Jiangsu (7.9%) and Zhejiang (6.2%) – meaning that over half of all students searching for US programs live in China’s Eastern provinces.

“What this data reveals is although there is increasing competition to recruit Chinese students around the world and within China itself, the interest from Chinese students in studying abroad and particularly coming to the US remains undiminished,” commented Mike Elms, CEO Hotcourses Inc. “The internet clearly is the most effective way of reaching potential Chinese students with more than 383 million Chinese online in 2009, up from 298 million in 2008 and of these 346 million using broadband*, more than the total population of the United States. That’s why we have a website,, fully in Chinese and domained in China to provide schools with an online presence within the country to reach this growing demand of students.”
*CNNIC (2010), Statistical Report on Internet Development in China.

Background on Hotcourses Inc.
Hotcourses was founded in 1996 and now runs websites in 21 countries and in 16 languages around the world. It has websites with education links to destinations in the USA, UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and New Zealand. Hotcourses has offices in Massachusetts, USA; London, UK; Sydney, Australia; and Chennai, India.


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Mike Elms
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