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9th January 2024

The rise and rise of Chinese students in UK Higher Education

Here are some of our key takeaways for institutions going into 2024.

A nuanced, informed, and adaptive approach is essential to meet the current demand.

Pearson and UCAS have recently unveiled a comprehensive global insight report that delves into the intricate details of the Chinese student journey through UK higher education (HE). This report not only underscores China’s pivotal role as the largest undergraduate international market for UK HE but also sheds light on key trends and considerations that can shape future strategies for educational institutions.

Here are some of our key takeaways:

  1. International Curriculum in Chinese Secondary Schools:
    • Chinese schools teaching international curriculum in secondary education, accounts for a significant 77% of applications. Institutions should look to focus efforts on these schools.
  2. Geo-targeting Specific Regions:
    • Applications and acceptances are concentrated in specific regions such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Nanjing. Geo-targeting strategies must be employed to tailor outreach efforts to these key regions.
  3. Authentic Collaborations with Current Chinese Students:
    • To resonate with prospective Chinese students, institutions should prioritise authentic collaborations with current students. Understanding their motivations for choosing a particular subject and reflecting these insights in content can establish a genuine connection that goes beyond conventional marketing approaches.
  4. Understanding Barriers, Drivers, and Influencers:
    • Recognising the factors that influence Chinese students, including academic excellence, reputation, and employability, is paramount. Reputation is the top factor attracting Chinese students to the UK, with 62% selecting UK based on its reputation.
    • Rankings play a significant role, especially for obtaining a hukou (a registration by city that determines a citizens access to housing, education, and medical treatment within a region), with Shanghai issuing it to Chinese graduates from top 100 universities globally.
  5. Shifting Subject Preferences
    • While business courses remain popular, applications for creative arts and design subjects have increased from 4% to 11%. Institutions must closely monitor these shifts to stay ahead of changing preferences.
  6. Equal Emphasis on Undergraduate (UG) Opportunities:
    • Contrary to previous assumptions, undergraduate opportunities are equally significant as postgraduate ones. Crafting strategies that cater to both UG and PG aspirants becomes essential for sustained growth.
  7. Early Consideration of International Study:
    • Chinese students start considering international study as early as 11-14 years old. This insight underscores the importance of a long-term approach, targeting students and their influencers at an early stage.
  8. Subject-First Decision Making:
    • Chinese students prioritise the choice of subject before considering other factors. Tailoring marketing efforts to address these preferences will enhance engagement and conversion rates.
  9. High Tariff Universities and London-Based Institutions:
    • China is predominantly reserved for high tariff universities, particularly those based in London. More than one-third of Chinese students heading to the UK are choosing London as their destination. Understanding and aligning with these preferences will mean institutions can position themselves effectively.
  10. Clearing Isn’t for China:
    • The report highlights that the clearing process isn’t a significant factor for Chinese students. Institutions should tailor their recruitment strategies accordingly.
  11. Utilising All UCAS Choices:
    • Chinese students utilise all five UCAS choices, making Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and conversion strategies critical for successful recruitment.
  12. Multiple Study Destinations:
    • 63% of Chinese applicants consider or apply to another country alongside the UK and China. Top alternative study destinations include the USA (40%), Canada (39%), and Australia (27%).  Universities must comprehend their international competition beyond the UK, and it becomes crucial to conduct mystery shopping and analyse the CRM propositions of these global counterparts.
  13. Impact of Graduate Visa Route:
    • 7  in 10 Chinese students are more likely to stay in the UK due to the Graduate visa route. This is a post-study work visa that will allow you to stay in the UK to work or look for work for 2 years after your degree has been awarded, or 3 years, if you have been awarded a Doctoral.
    • Finding a job in the UK (43%) or China (34%) is a popular option post-graduation for Chinese students. Marketing potential job opportunities and graduate visa routes might also be an option to consider.
  14. Undergraduate Students Considering Postgraduate Studies:
    • 73% of undergraduate students are considering postgraduate studies. This insight opens opportunities for institutions to establish long-term relationships with students.
  15. Key Periods for Content Marketing:
    • Finally, the report underscores the importance of strategic content marketing and campaigning during specific periods, spanning from June/July to November/December, aligning with key decision-making timelines.

In attracting Chinese students to UK higher education, institutions must embrace a nuanced, informed, and adaptive approach.

For an informal discussion about all of this, please get in touch with kim.mclellan@hunterlodge.co.uk

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