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Masters in China

by Chantelle Francis

As one of the world’s economic greats, a Masters Degree in China can offer you much more than a good trade deal. A vibrant nation, China is a country built on a want for progression and stability - two very important factors when choosing a study destination.

And China is keen to put itself forward as an option for foreign postgraduates. Several important projects have been initiated by the Chinese government to improve its higher education system and around 600 colleges and universities are now accredited to admit international students.

This guide will answer your questions about postgraduate study in China, with information on universities, tuition fees, funding opportunities and student visas.

Masters Study in China - Key Details
Universities 2,409
Oldest University Peking University (1898)
International Students 397,500
Course Length 2-3 years
Average Fees £1,320-2,400
Academic Year March to January

Why study a Masters in China?

China is home to over 1.35 billion people and is the world’s second largest nation by land area. As such you should have no problem finding new friends and accumulating various experiences during your time in the country.

This expansive land area also means that China is a land of incredible diversity.

Climates in different regions vary greatly, from the cold in the Himalayas, to the subtropical in southern China. China is also home to 56 ethnic groups each with their own customs and traditions…and food!

With two holidays per year lasting between 4-8 weeks, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore them. And if sport’s your thing, you can get stuck in with some of China’s favourites, including football, badminton, ping pong, and even regional activities such as lake sports.

How popular is Masters study in China?

Nearly 400,000 people currently study abroad in China. So you certainly won’t be alone as an international postgraduate.

China has also set up a range of initiatives to promote its universities. The most important are Project 985 and Project 211:

  • Project 985 is intended to promote the Chinese higher education system as a whole. It was initiated by President Jiang Zemin at the 100th anniversary of Peking University on May 4, 1998 . The objective is to develop, in cooperation with local government, several world-leading Chinese universities.
  • Project 211 aims to strengthen approximately 100 key universities and colleges for the 21st century. It was initiated in 1995 by China's Ministry of Education. The project title is derived from the abbreviation of ‘21st century’ and the 100 universities it aims to enhance. China now has more than 2,000 standard institutions of higher education, about 6 percent of which are 211 Project institutions.

Search Chinese Masters degrees

Like what you hear? You can use our course search to view and compare a range of Masters programmes in China now.

Masters study in China – what’s it like?

Chinese universities are renowned for their excellence in science, technology engineering and mathematics.

The academic year begins in Spring rather than Autumn, but runs similarly to countries like the UK. Courses are organised into individual semesters, with summer study leave generally lasting between 4-8 weeks depending on the institution and the course you are studying. The Chinese New Year is also a factor in determining semester dates, and as such study leave is usually centred around this time.

Masters courses do differ to the UK in length – 2 years is the minimum average for most institutions in China.

Types of Chinese university

China is home to nearly 2,500 universities. They can be broadly divided into two types: private schools and public schools.

  • Private schools (also known as non-governmental, or non-state schools) are not administered by local, state or national governments but managed by people or non-governmental organization. They retain the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition, rather than relying on mandatory taxation through public (government) funding. They can therefore charge more for degrees, should they wish. Students may also be less likely to gain scholarships for these kinds of institutions.
  • Public schools are funded by the government or governmental agencies. Nearly all Universities in China are publicly funded, and these are generally the more popular and significant centres for higher education in the country. Scholarships for these institutions are more readily available, so you should check out which funding opportunities you may be eligible for.

Types of Chinese Masters degree

Degrees in subjects such as Science and Technology are usually more popular and more readily available at high-end Chinese institutions. Less focus is given to subjects such as the Arts, but with a high number of universities to choose from, you will easily find the course you desire at a suitable institution.

Both research and taught Masters are available, in a variety of qualifications, including MA, MSc, MRes, and MBA degrees.

The Chinese government has signed mutual recognition agreements for higher education qualifications with various countries including the UK. However, you should still check with the university or higher education institution where you are hoping to study to see if their qualification is recognised or has a UK equivalent.

Most Masters courses are taught over two semesters, but the number of modules varies greatly depending on subject and institution, so it is worth having a read of the course structure for the programme you are applying for.

Are any Masters Degrees in China taught in English?

Yes, but these courses are mainly MBBS, business programs, engineering programs and computer science and technology.

If English is your first language, you will not need to pass a language test to study these courses. However, if you are an international student whose first language is not English, and you have not studied at an English institution for 3 years or more, you will need to provide evidence of your proficiency.

Is there anything else I should be aware of?

As a recently industrialised city, China does have issues with high levels of pollution in certain regions. If you have health issues such as asthma, it may be worth checking the air quality of the area in which you’d like to be based.

China is the largest media market in the world, and has the world's largest online population. However, internet usage is also highly mediated. You may find that you are unable to access all of the websites you would at home.

Laws in China also differ to those in the UK. You need to carry your passport with you at all times. Police can carry out spontaneous checks and may fine or detain you if you don't have your passport. There are also restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching. Homosexuality is no longer illegal and is becoming more widely accepted, but there are no specific laws in place to protect the rights of LGBT people.

Chinese university rankings

China is not committed to a standard domestic ranking system, instead opting to organise universities using to the two Projects, 985 and 211, mentioned earlier.

As a general rule, the country’s top universities are located in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Global rankings

China's universities are featured in several global university rankings, including the Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings as well as the Academic Ranking of World Universities (based in Shanghai).

The table below provides a comparison of these rankings for top Chinese universities.

Chinese University Rankings
University THE (2015-16) QS (2015-16) ARWU (2016)
Peking University 42 51-100 71
Tsinghua University =47 151-200 58
Fudan University 201-250 - 101-150
University of Science and Technology of China 201-250 - 101-150
Nanjing University 251-300 - 201-300
Zheijang University 251-300 - 101-150
Beijing Normal University - 42 201-300
East China Normal University - 101-150 -
Information in this table is based on recent QS World University Rankings Academic Ranking of World Universities and Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Visit their websites for more information.

Regional university rankings

In addition to their increasing global recognition, China's universities are particularly dominant in rankings focussing on the Asia region.

Chinese Regional University Rankings
University THE Asia (2015-16) QS Asia (2015-16)
Peking University =2 9
Tsinghua University 5 5
Fudan University 19 11
University of Science and Technology of China 25 -
Nanjing University 29 23
Zheijang University 25 24
Shanghai Jiao Tong University =32 42
Sun Yat-sen University 40 47
Wuhan University =55 44
Tianjin University 58 72
East China University of Science and Technology 63 101-150
Huazhong University of Science and Technology =68 81
Harbin Institute of Technology 75 59
Xiamen University 77 68
Soochow University 78 101-150
Xian Jiaotong University =80 56
China Agricultural University 82 101-150
East China Normal University 83 82
Renmin University of China 88 62
South China University of Technology 89 101-150
Tongji University 92 53
Dalian University of Technology 93 101-150
Beijing Normal University - 40
Nankai University - 57
Shanghai University - 69
Beijing Institute of Technology - 70
Southeast University - 82
Beihang University - 85
Jilin University - 87
Shandong University - 98
Information in this table is based on recent QS World University Rankings: Asia, and Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for Masters degrees?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

Applying for a Masters in China

Most universities in China run on a 2 semester year, but some have 3 semesters. Check with your University to ensure you can apply early.

Applications for Autumn semesters

The Autumn semester usually starts in September or October.

Applications to begin a Masters in this semester usually open in late February/ early March. Official application deadlines are usually in late July, but this can vary depending on the institution. Do note that early applications look more favourable.

If accepted, your admission letter should arrive in late May/ early June. It is best to apply early as letters for later applications (i.e. July) can be delivered as late as 4 weeks before your start date. This would leave you with limited time to apply for a visa.

Applications for Spring Semesters

The Spring semester usually starts in late February or early March.

As mentioned above, the earlier you can apply for your course, the better. Applications for Spring semester usually open in late October, with the official deadline for most universities ending in late January. Applying earlier will allow more time to organise your visa and other documentation.

Application Process

In most cases, there are several options when applying to study a Masters degree at a Chinese institution. You can either apply directly to your university, or apply using an official support service such as CUCAS. Be aware of unofficial agencies.

The whole process usually takes around 2-3 months. Applying early and avoiding busy times of year can reduce processing time.

Once you've found a Masters in China there are two main options available for your application:

  • Apply directly to the University

    This is an option at all universities. Applications will be easier if you speak Chinese and are able to make yourself understood when communicating with your desired institution. Universities may not have staff dedicated to helping you with the application process. You should also take into account the difference in time zone. Note that applying directly to your university will not guarantee you student accommodation.

  • Apply through CUCAS

    CUCAS is the official international application portal for Chinese universities. Not all institutions and programmes operate through CUCAS, but their free service will make applications much simpler for those that do.

Application fees

Universities may charge a small fee to process applications. This is usually between £50 and £100, but can vary between institutions.

Entry requirements

To be admitted onto a Chinese Masters degree you will normally need to:

  • hold a valid passport
  • hold a Bachelors degree (or equivalent undergraduate qualification)
  • provide one/two letters of recommendation (tutors at your undergraduate university may be able to provide these)
  • pass a medical examination
  • meet the language requirements for your course (see below)

Some Chinese universities may also set age limits fo postgraduate applications. These can be as low as 40, so it's worth checking your course's requirements if applying as a mature postgraduate.

Language requirements

Some Masters degrees in China are taught in English, but many are not. In order to study a Chinese-language programme, you will need to pass a language test.

The official languages of China include Mandarin, Wu and Cantonese. Your Chinese teacher will certainly speak standard Mandarin (a prerequisite for teaching foreign students).

Standard Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect, but this doesn't mean that you won't learn to speak “proper” Chinese if you study in another part of the county.

Most Chinese people also speak the local dialect of their hometown, so you may encounter lots of different types of Chinese expression during your stay.

Chinese language tests

If your course is taught in Chinese you will need to provide a Chinese (Mandarin) language test score as part of your application. The standard test is the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi test. You can read more in our guide to Chinese language tests for postgraduate study.

Visa and immigration requirements

Foreign students studying in China are required to hold an ordinary passport and a valid student visa. Visa applications can take up to 4 weeks and can only begin once you have received an offer from a Chinese university. This means you'll need to make sure you leave sufficient time to complete both your Masters application and your visa application, before your course start date.

Applying for an X1 visa

You can normally begin your visa application at a Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country. To do so, you’ll need the following documents:

  • Your passport. This should be valid for at least six more months and have a blank page for your visa stamp.
  • A recent passport photograph.
  • Proof of legal residence in your current country (if applying from a country you are not a national of).
  • An original and a copy of the university admission letter issued for your Masters.
  • A completed visa application form. This will be issued to you by your university along with your admission letter. The form will be labelled as JW201 (for students on scholarships) or JW202 (for students supporting their own studies). Your university will send you the correct version.

Other documents may be required, depending on your personal circumstances. The embassy at which you apply should be able to inform you of these.

Upon arrival

Once you have arrived in China, you will need to acquire a Registration Form of Temporary Residence. Who you receive this from will depend on your accommodation arrangements.

If you are living in university halls, you should receive the form from your university. If you are renting privately, you should receive your Temporary Residence Form from the local authorities (your landlord may have to accompany you).

Once you have your Registration Form of Temporary residence you can formally enrol with your university and receive a longer term Residence Permit.

Enrolling with your university

Registration processes differ slightly between institutions, but there are certain documents which you should normally have on hand. These include:

  • Your passport (plus extra passport-sized photographs)
  • An admission letter from your university
  • A copy of your health insurance letter
  • Confirmation of your health insurance
  • A receipt for payment of tuition
  • Your Registration Form of Temporary Residence (this will have been provided by your university accommodation or by local authorities, if renting privately)

If you have yet to pay for tuition fees or health insurance you can do so at your university.

Applying for a Residence Permit

The last thing to do before getting stuck into your Masters is to apply for a longer term Residence Permit. Your university can help you with this: you won’t be left to do it by yourself.

If you did not have to undergo a physical examination in order to receive your visa, you may have to undertake one in China in order to receive your residence permit. Again, your university can help you with this.

The procedure for obtaining a residence permit may take up to six weeks. During this time your passport will be with the Public Security Bureau. As such, you cannot make plans to leave the country during this period.

Once you receive a residence permit, this will be pasted into your passport, effectively replacing your visa. This will allow you to exit and re-enter the country.

You must carry your passport (with residency permit) with you at all times, as passport checks are undertaken regularly.

Health insurance and medical requirements

As a Masters student you will normally be staying in China for over a year. As such, you will need to hold adequate health insurance, which covers the duration of your stay.

You will also need to undergo a physical examination, preferably before arrival.

Physical examination

Your examination should be performed in a public hospital one month before departure for China. If the examination is performed in a private hospital, you should receive a notarised certificate. A form for this is available from CUCAS, the official application support service for international students in china.

In some circumstances, passing a physical examination may be a condition of your visa. If so, this will be made clear during your application.

Purchasing insurance

International students in China are also required to purchase both medical insurance and personal accidental death and injury insurance. You can do this before or after arrival in China.

If you opt to purchase student health insurance in China, you can do so when registering with your university. Most will recommend you to buy the ‘Ping An Life Insurance’s Overall Insurance & Benefit Plan for People Coming to China’. The cost for this is 600 CNY (a little under £70) a year. You may be asked to purchase cover for your full course duration in advance.

Make sure you check your insurance details

China is a big country and rural hospitals may not have the same facilities as urban centres. Make sure your insurance includes transport. Your insurance may also limit the range of hospitals you can be treated at.

Can I work while I study?

Yes – but permissions vary depending on where you study. This is because it is only recently that the Chinese government has allowed international students to undertake part-time work.

As a general rule, students can work on average 12 hours per week, and may possibly take up extra hours in the holidays. However, you must have permission from your academic institution. As such, it is best to contact your university regarding their policy on part-time work for international students.

What kind of work do students in China do?

Paid part-time teaching is proving a popular profession with international students. You may be able to apply for a teaching internship through your University. Other possible jobs include voice recording, acting, and modelling.

Masters fees and funding

The cost of studying and living in China is relatively low. In fact, most of your everyday essentials may be much cheaper to acquire than in your home country.

Tuition fees vary depending on the institution and subject, so comparing different programmes is always a good idea. You can get started by searching the Chinese Masters degrees in our course listings.

Tuition fees

Typical tuition fees for a Chinese Masters degree will be between £1,500-3,000, per year. Exact costs will vary by course and institution. Some MBA programmes and other specialised qualifications can be up to £9,000.

Other fees

Tuition fees are not the only the only cost you'll have to cover when applying to study in China. You may also need to pay for the following:

  • Application fees - CUCAS services are free, but individual universities require a fee of £50-100
  • Visa fees - these vary for each country, but cost £100-180 for students applying from the UK
  • Medical examination fee - this varies depending on where it is undertaken, but is usually in the region of £90-160
  • Travel expenses - this includes your flights and any public transportation you may use upon your arrival
  • Health insurance - This is approximately £60-100 per year depending on your needs and your provider

Accommodation costs

Larger and more modern Chinese universities may have dedicated housing for international students, but private lettings will also be available in most cities. Average prices can vary a lot depending on the type of accommodation you require and the prices in your area. Expect to pay between £150-400 per month, but be sure to research actual costs in advance.

Living costs

Many basic groceries in China are comparatively cheap. You should therefore be able to support yourself on a modest student budget.

Item Price (¥) Price (£)
Milk (1 litre) 13.10 1.50
Loaf of bread (500g) 10.80 1.20
Potatoes (1kg) 6.20 0.70
Chicken breasts (1kg) 26.40 3
Rice (1kg) 6.70 0.80

Monthly Utilities
Item Price (¥) Price (£)
Monthly travel pass 150 17
Broadband internet (10mbps, uncapped) 108.60 12.30
Domestic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Water and Waste) 330.80 37.60

Entertainment and Leisure
Item Price (¥) Price (£)
Cinema ticket 60 6.80
Mid-price bottle of wine 80 9.10
Cup of coffee 26.50 3
Draught beer (0.5 litre) 5 0.60
Inexpensive restaurant meal 20 2.30

Note Information in the above tables is based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. Figures are approximate and provided for comparative purposes only. They do not take account of student discounts and may vary over time or between cities.

Scholarships and other Masters funding

A variety of scholarship programs have been established to help overseas students study in China, including three which are run by CUCAS. Other opportunities include:

  • Confucius Institute Scholarship - The purpose of this scholarship is to help students settle into studying in China. It is also open to scholars and language teachers, so would be an ideal opportunity for mature students (up to the age of 35). You need to have acquired a good level of Chinese, and be able to prove this. There are six possible categories to choose from, so you should be able to find funding that suits your needs.
  • Chinese Local Government Scholarships - The purpose of these scholarships are to attract students to certain areas within China to study Chinese language and culture. There are a total of 11 provinces to choose from, so you should find a suitable region in which to study your particular interests.
  • Chinese Government Scholarships - The Chinese Ministry of Education offers scholarships for students to undertake studies and research at Chinese universities. Areas of study and research are much more open. Ideal if you do not wish to study in Chinese.
  • The British Council - The British Council runs scholarships programmes open to anyone is possession of a British passport (or Irish passport for students of Northern Ireland). All you need to pay for is return flights, visa costs, and medical insurance. Most of these scholarships are designed for students already in higher education, but could be a great opportunity as bridge between undergraduate and Masters study.

You may also be able to receive funding directly from your university. Many will have scholarships available, some of which will be designed to help attract and support international students. Check with your institution to see what they offer.

After graduation: careers and opportunities with a Chinese Masters degree

In recent years, China has become the world’s fastest growing economy - a great asset for international students looking for jobs.

The Chinese government is also seeking more graduates to help its economy grow further – so considering staying on after you graduate could be a great opportunity. Graduates who are bilingual and have experience of working in international contexts are particularly sought after.

There is also high demand for employees in the UK and other countries to have had work experience in China - and you'll already have taken the first steps for this. The British Council in particular is running an internship programme for UK students to gain work experience across a range of industries in China. Placements are available in Beijing, Chengdu, Qingdao, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The internships last for two months and funding is provided to cover accommodation and travel insurance.

Applying for a work visa

If you want to work in China you must apply for a Z visa and need to have an official invitation to the country by an employer. For more information on applying for visas, contact the Chinese Embassy in the UK (or the appropriate branch in your own home country). If you're not a UK national, contact the Chinese embassy in the country where you are currently resident for advice.

Where can you work?

Education is highly valued in China and teaching is a well-respected profession. Language teaching is particularly popular. Placements are available in Chinese schools, colleges or universities and last from a few months to a year. Specific opportunities are available through the British Council and IST Plus.

It is also common for graduates to work for foreign-owned companies that are based in China, as opposed to just Chinese businesses.

Around 85% of foreign employees in China work for international companies, with the largest proportion in sales and marketing, followed by banking, financial services, and engineering.

IT is also another large industry employer, with about 5% of international employees working in this sector. Management and HR (human resources) positions are also widely available.

Big employers include Sinopec, China National Petroleum, China Mobile, Bank of China, SAIC Motor, FAW Group, and the Sinochem Group. All of these will potentially have opportunities available for international Masters graduates.

How do you become a permanent resident in China?

D visas (also known as the ‘Chinese Green Card’) are issued to those who wish to stay in China permanently, and are issued for ten years. Gaining a D visa does not establish you as a Chinese citizen, but allows you to enter and leave China freely, and work as you wish.

This visa can be quite difficult to obtain, and the application process involves a lot of paperwork. You must also fulfil at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be a high-level foreign expert holding a post in a business that promote China's economic, scientific and technological development, or social progress
  • Have made outstanding contributions, or are of special importance to China
  • Have made large direct investment of over 500 thousand US dollars in China
  • Come to China to be with your family, such as husband or wife, minors dependent on their parents, and senior citizens dependent on their relatives

It may take a few years after your Masters for you to establish yourself sufficiently to be able to apply for this visa. In the meantime, however, it is possible to renew your Z visa on a yearly basis.

Can you study for a PhD in China?

Yes! To see what PhD opportunities might be available to you in China, or elsewhere, you can visit FindAPhD.com.

Last updated - 26/08/2016

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