China is home to a vast number of colleges and universities that have helped produce some of the most brilliant minds in nearly every discipline. The country’s educational system has produced world leaders in the fields of business, math, astronomy, philosophy and obviously – martial arts. In addition to that, its diverse population, various dialects, and excellent educational system make China one of the ideal locations for study abroad students. 

If you are looking into study abroad China options, you will find the following information useful.

Why China?

When deciding on a destination for your international education, the first question that pops up in your mind is: ‘Why this place?’ This is certainly a very genuine concern. Have a look at why China is one of the best places for studying abroad:


Studying in China is cheaper than studying and living in European nations, the US, Japan, South Korea and several other countries.

Residence: Within 24 hours of entering China, international students are required to go to the local police station and apply for the Registration Form of Temporary Residence. With housing and residence, the next thing you need to do is apply for a residence permit. Once you land in the country with an X1 visa, you will have 30 days to apply for this permit.  You will need to get your admission letter (yellow sheet of JW201 or JW202 form) back from the Chinese Embassy or Consulate.

For the residence permit application, you are required to bring the following documents along with you:

  • Passport
  • Admission Notice issued by the university (original and a copy)
  • The JW201 or JW202 Form
  • Official physical examination report
  • Registration form of temporary registration
  • A passport sized photo

For the extension of a residence permit, you will be required to bring:

  • Passport
  • Introduction letter for visa application
  • Registration form of temporary registration
  • A passport sized photo

The residence permit would cost you somewhere between ¥400 and ¥1000, depending on how long you are planning to stay in the country. The accommodation fee would be somewhere between US$200 and US$300 per month, per person. This would depend on the universities, their policies and the types of rooms you are looking into.

If you plan on living separately, in an apartment with a group of friends, or alone in a studio apartment, the costs would be slightly higher. In metropolitan areas such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the cost could be around US$740 to US$830 per month. Other cities would be cheaper at around US$250 to US$580 per month.  

Tuition: The Chinese Ministry of Education imposes strict regulations on Chinese universities’ tuition to make it more affordable and accessible to international students. There are various scholarship plans available to students here, provided by the government and schools to make education less burdensome on the students. The country has some amazing scholarship options for students including the Chinese Government Scholarship Scheme, the Great Wall Fellowship Scheme, Study in Asia Scholarship Scheme, China/AUN Scholarship Scheme, China/Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Scholarship Scheme and many others. China offers pretty low tuition fees to international and local students both, especially in comparison to places such as the UK and the USA. The estimated average tuition fee ranges from $3300 USD to $9900 USD every year.

Living Expenses: The cost of living and general expenses are also quite less. Daily commodities are very reasonably priced and you can live a comfortable life on a small budget. On a general level, living in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai can cost you $500 USD per month, while the expenses of living will be lower than $300 USD in smaller cities such as Dalian, Jinan and Qingdao, etc.

Transport in China: The concept of car ownership is new in China, which is an indication of the fact that the public transport system in the country is very well developed. The country has one of the finest transportation systems in the world, with a highly modernized system of railways. The urban transport system is very efficient and in a lot of cities, quite superior to the kind of systems you would find in the western world. The three major systems that run in the country are:

  • Subway: This costs around 30 to 120 US cents in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai
  • Bus: The cost for this is even lower than the Subway and can go down to 10-20 US cents as well
  • Taxi: This is charged on a per kilometer basis and can go up to 30 US cents per kilometer in cities like Beijing and 40 US cents per kilometer in Shanghai and Guangzhou

Eating in China: You might be surprised to find out that the version of Chinese food you eat in your country is not quite like actual authentic Chinese. This is partly due to the fact that Chinese recipes are adapted to meet local tastes. Food in the northern areas of China is usually slightly heavier in nature, with locals preferring wheat-based staples over rice. On the other hand, the central provinces of the country like Sichuan and Hunan are known for their spicy foods.  International food items are also widely available in the country – the bigger the city, the wider the variety. Fast food chains such as KFC and McDonald’s are also a pretty common sight. Eating out in China is pretty affordable as well. A simple meal at the college canteen or a small local restaurant can cost you somewhere between $1 and $4 (USD) and can include both international and local cuisines.

Places to See in China

As an international student, you would have plenty of opportunities to roam around the country and explore its unique blend of ancient and modern civilizations, along with its scenic beauty and an active nightlife. China’s huge, so you can expect to come across numerous cultures, climates and landscapes. You may want to pay a quick visit to Harbin and enjoy the famous ice festival in the below freezing temperatures. If -25°C sounds too cold, you can always head south to the tropical beach paradise of Hainan Island and lay back in the beautiful, warm sunlight.

In addition to the natural beauty of the country, there is a lot to see in terms of architecture and modern buildings. From the towering skyscrapers in Shanghai to the renowned Beijing Olympic Bird’s Nest, there is an interesting modern feel to the country.

However, if you are more into the ancient structures and historic monuments, the country has countless options there as well. With places like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, you are not likely to run out of historic monuments to see in China.

How to Get to China – Visa Considerations

A student visa in China is divided into two classifications: X1 and X2. X1 is meant for students who come to China for studies for more than 6 months. X2 is issued to students who come to China for a period of less than 6 months. The institute you are applying to must be accredited. They will send you a JW201 or a JW202 form along with the admission letter. You shall be required to submit these with your application.

Bear in mind that you will not be allowed to work on X1 and X2. X1 holders have to file for the Temporary Residence Permit from the local Public Security (PSB) within 30 days. The validity of this permit can be 180 days to 5 years. X2 visa holders can stay in China for the duration that is stated on their visa and it is not necessary for them to apply for the temporary residence permit.

Requirements for China’s Visa Application

  • Applicant’s original passport with a validity of at least 6 months, with a minimum of one blank page
  • One completed application form
  • One passport size colored photo with full face in frontal view, no hats etc, against a plain background
  • Original and a copy of the approved Foreign Student Visa Application form JW201 or JW202 (For X1 visas only)
  • Original and a copy of the letter of acceptance from the university or school

The Application Procedure

  • You can submit the application to the consular office of the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in person
  • You can get a friend or family member, a travel agency or a visa agency to act on your behalf and submit the application – power of attorney is not necessary
  • Applications received via mail will not be accepted

Processing Time: The regular processing time for visa applications is 4 working days. However, if you wish to collect your visa earlier, you can opt for the express service. With the Express Service, the processing would take 2-3 working days and an extra US$20 will be charged. Rush Service (in case of emergencies) can cost you an extra US$30 and will take 1 working day to process.

Visa Fee: If you are coming in from the US, the fee would be somewhere around US$140.

Top Universities in China for International Students

This will be one of the most pressing concerns for people who plan to study abroad in China. The university selection process can be a complex one. Stay on top of it by staying well-informed. Here are some universities you might want to look into:

  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University: Having been around for more than 120 years, the university boasts of a large international student presence. One in every ten undergraduates here is an international student. It is the ideal place for science students.
  • Fudan University: This University has been open to international students since the 1950’s and is among the first in China to do so. Fudan University has several campuses in Shanghai, which makes finding classes near your residence a lot easier.
  • Tsinghua University: This is perhaps the best of the best. It is the alma mater of Nobel Laureates and China’s last two presidents. The University also has a pretty amazing MBA program, ideal for all business students.
  • Peking University: This is the oldest university in the country and is home to more than 2,000 international students. It has partnerships with Cornell University, Stanford University and Yale University and is widely acclaimed for its academic prowess.
  • Guangxi Normal University (GXNU): This is one of the best teaching universities in the country and is located in the beautiful Li River Valley. It is the ideal place for American students who want to learn Mandarin and work on their English teaching skills.
  • Sichuan University (Chengdu): This is located in the capital city of the Sichuan Province. Potentially one of the oldest universities, tracing its origins back to 141 BC, the Sichuan University is a fantastic option for international students who intend to get a deeper experience than traditional China study abroad programs.
  • University of Hong Kong: It is the oldest university in the city and has almost one-fourth of its students from outside of China. In addition to that, the university is located in one of the most happening cities in Southeast Asia.

There are plenty of other universities in the country as well. Once you start planning your study abroad China plans, you will need to do a bit of research into all the university options available.

Studying in China as an international student can be a life-changing experience. With all the unique customs surrounding you and one of the friendliest populations awaiting you, this country is certainly a wonderful place to be for your international education.


  • Capital
  • Calling code
  • Population
    1,376.04 Million
  • National languages
    Standard Chinese
  • Time zone
  • Currency
    Yuan (CNY)