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|
|Oldest University||Peking University (1898)|
|Course Length||2-3 years|
|Academic Year||March to January|
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.
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:
Like what you hear? You can use our course search to view and compare a range of Masters programmes in China now.
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.
China is home to nearly 2,500 universities. They can be broadly divided into two types: private schools and public schools.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)|
|University of Science and Technology of China||201-250||-||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.|
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)|
|University of Science and Technology of China||25||-|
|Shanghai Jiao Tong University||=32||42|
|Sun Yat-sen University||40||47|
|East China University of Science and Technology||63||101-150|
|Huazhong University of Science and Technology||=68||81|
|Harbin Institute of Technology||75||59|
|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|
|Dalian University of Technology||93||101-150|
|Beijing Normal University||-||40|
|Beijing Institute of Technology||-||70|
|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.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Universities may charge a small fee to process applications. This is usually between £50 and £100, but can vary between institutions.
To be admitted onto a Chinese Masters degree you will normally need to:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Other documents may be required, depending on your personal circumstances. The embassy at which you apply should be able to inform you of these.
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.
Registration processes differ slightly between institutions, but there are certain documents which you should normally have on hand. These include:
If you have yet to pay for tuition fees or health insurance you can do so at your university.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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|
|Chicken breasts (1kg)||26.40||3|
|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 (£)|
|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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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