Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
14th Jun 2023

After domestic tuition hikes, Chinese officials reportedly considering an increase in international student fees

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Chinese universities have raised domestic tuition fees this year, many for the first time in more than two decades
  • Tuition hikes range from 15% to nearly 60%, depending on province
  • A recent study by Chinese academics recommends a five-fold increase in international student fees as well

Chinese universities are predominantly public institutions and, as such, they rely heavily on government funding. But with a sluggish national economy, the lingering effects of the long COVID lockdown, and with government spending more restrained this year, many institutions are moving to dramatically increase fees for domestic students.

There are widespread media reports of tuition hikes, some as high as 50% or more, at institutions throughout the country. For many universities, these will be the first notable tuition increases in more than 20 years.

"Multiple provinces in China have settled on fee rises for the 2023/24 academic year which begins in September, with increases ranging from 54% in Shanghai to under 15% in some poorer provinces, according to an official announcement on 26 May," notes a related report from University World News.

The current trend of rising domestic fees, and the underlying financial pressures on many universities, has in turn led to growing speculation that international student tuitions may soon be on the rise as well.

A recent study by a team of Chinese education experts, led by Beijing Institute of Technology professor Liu Jin, has further fired that expectation of higher international fees on the horizon. Professor Liu and his team have recommended that international fees be increased five-fold, to 100,000 yuan (roughly US$14,000). This compares to the current, nationally set rate of 20,000 yuan (US$2,800).

The research team provided a detailed analysis of the costs associating with educating foreign students -- a cost that is not covered at current tuition levels – and argued that international fees needed to rise in order to provide a more sustainable model for international education within China. They have further recommended some flexibility in international fees, including expanded government support in the form of grants or scholarships, for talented students, so that higher fees do not present a barrier for students that are not able to fully fund their studies in China.

A related item in the South China Morning Post, quotes an unidentified education policy researcher in Beijing: “Education authorities and university managers are recognising the need to invest more in higher education to remain competitive globally. By raising tuition fees for international students, Chinese universities can generate more revenue to invest in research, infrastructure, and other areas that can help improve their global rankings and reputation.”

It should be added that even if those international fee recommendations are adopted China will remain a relatively affordable destination for foreign students. The recommended tuition level of US$14,000 per year remains considerably below international fees on offer in many other leading destinations, including the US, UK, Australia, and Canada, where average tuition rates will remain roughly two or even three times the level of the proposed increase for Chinese universities.

For additional background, please see:

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