Study in China: the ultimate guide for a PhD in 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Studying in China in 2024

Browse all PhD programmes in China

  • Sep-Jan Academic Year
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  • 225,000 Int. Students
  • 53,823,000 Students
  • 1,448,471,000 Population

Study in China

What more can we say about China that you don’t already know? It’s a cradle of culture, philosophy, and art, that changed the course of history with every invention and every dynasty; not to mention the great works of Sun Tzu and Confucius that are still quoted and used as life guide.

Knowing all this, why wouldn’t students wish to come here, especially to be close to the birthplace of the Zen school of Buddhism that encourages individuals to find inner peace and relaxation?

Thinking of the great atmosphere and culture, China seems like the ideal international destination for your studies.

Why study in China?

1. Chinese universities are up there with the best

Whether we focus only on Asia or we look at it from a global perspective, Chinese universities are among the top providers of higher education. Over 100 universities in China earn their places in the well-respected global rankings, which are updated ever year.

2. The government offers a huge number of scholarships

You know the saying "actions speak louder than words"? The Chinese government is the perfect positive example, at least in terms of attracting international students. Local authorities have not only talked about but also invested heavily into creating an inviting environment for non-locals.

It's enough to look at the huge number of scholarships and sponsorships available — over 40,000 — to realise the importance that the government places on attracting international talents.

3. Achieve Chinese language proficiency

Chinese isn't only the most spoken language worldwide, but it is also an in-demand language, one that can help you find well-paid jobs at Chinese companies or subsidiaries all over the world.

Sure, it's not exactly easy to learn Chinese. But if the passion is there and you're open to the idea, studying and living in China for a few years will give you all the needed support to master this language.

4. Make your CV stand out with a diploma from China

With so many CVs looking all the same, it's no wonder that businesses and HR departments are having a hard time finding exceptional candidates. But if you graduate with a diploma from a Chinese university, you won't have this problem as a future job seeker.

Chinese universities are well-respected, and any HR specialist knows that not anybody has the courage or the personal resources to succeed as a student in the world' most populous nation.

5. Explore the Chinese culture

China has a unique culture, with an interesting blend of influences, values, and traditions.

From the Confucian beliefs to the national pride, from the emphasis on family to the immensely popular ping-pong (table tennis), from the Chinese calligraphy to kung fu, and from traditional festivals to the passion for tea — few nations can match China's rich and colourful culture.

Which universities and colleges to attend in China?

China has 44 ranked universities in the top 500. Seeing as it can be difficult to go through all of them and decide which is the best to attend, we decided to only list a few we recommend, but remember to keep your options open:

Check out this article on the best universities in China according to the latest rankings. 

What is it like to study in China?

In the student reviews on studying in China, a single phrase gets used over and over: great and innovative facilities.

Apparently, universities know how to take care of their students, making their lives easier and taking care of them, offering free access to materials and equipment.

Classes run from 8 to 12, and usually include presentations and debates, while students are encouraged to work in teams and mingle as much as possible, in order to assure a high level of cultural exchange.

Also, sport and extracurricular activities play a huge role in a student’s life, so be prepared to spend a lot of free time on campus, without regretting it.

What to study in China?

China covers all fields of education, but it can be hard to decide what to study and what are the most lucrative and popular degrees out there. So, because we’re super helpful and awesome, we made this nifty list of the most popular study options in China. They are:

Where to study in China?

China is the fourth largest country in the world, so it can be difficult to decide on the city you’re better suited for.

Still, in fairness, nothing compares to the major cities in China, when it comes to universities and student nightlife. So, there’s no wonder pupils flock to study in Beijing in favour of the rest of the cities.

How to apply

Chinese universities receive a lot of applicants yearly, so there are a lot of auxiliary websites for students to ask for help and manage their applications. These websites are:

  • CUCAS – where you can apply by yourself online, and it’s an intermediator between you and the university
  • CUAC (China University Application Centre) – where you can apply to a university, but also find awesome advisors and professional guides, that can help you with your studying decision

You can also apply on your own, of course, directly at the university you’ve chosen. However, whichever way you decide to apply, the documents needed are the same, which are:

  • A passport photo
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • A photocopy of your visa
  • Your ID
  • Your health certificate
  • Your criminal record (a clean one, hopefully)
  • A Chinese / English language proficiency certificate
  • Letter of guarantee (parents or legal guardians sign a declaration by which they assume responsibility that you will abide by the rules and regulations of China and of the university)
  • Proof that you can support your studies in China
  • Certificate / diploma from your last graduated school
  • Academic transcripts from your last graduated school

Helpful ways to make sure you qualify for a Chinese university

Take Preparation Courses

These kinds of courses enable degree-seeking students to get an extra educational boost just before they start their Master’s degree or other post-graduate degree programmes. Try a pre-M.B.A., pre-Law, or pre-Medicine programme, as well as any other foundation or preparation courses that will allow you to study in the degree programme of your choice.

Improve your English through an English-language prep course

If you’re attending a degree programme in China, you will need to prove that your language skills are good enough to participate in the classes and understand the lectures. These courses will also prepare you for any of the English-language tests that universities require.

English-language tests

China has a lot of English Master’s programmes. Still, in order to apply to one of them, you will have to prove your proficiency through an English certificate. The ones accepted by Chinese universities are:

Living in China

Let's take a closer look at tuition and living expenses in China:

Tuition fees in China

Before we get to the tuition fees, we should mention the application fees: these vary between 90 and 120 USD.

  • At public universities, tuition ranges between 2,500 and 10,000 USD/year.
  • At private universities, tuition can reach 30,000 USD and sometimes over 50,000 USD/year depending on your chosen discipline

Have a look at this article on affordable universities in China. Students can always check out scholarships and other financial aid to cover their study expenses.

Accommodation, food and other expenses

Living costs in China are similar to those in other popular study destinations. In most Chinese cities, students will need between 600 and 1,000 USD per month. Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen are more expensive; you'll need around 1,000–1,200 USD per month.

Here's a breakdown of the average living expenses in China:

  • rent (student residence halls): 150–400 USD/month
  • rent (private flat): 300–1,000 USD/month
  • rent (living with a Chinese family): 350–550 USD/month
  • food and groceries: 170–200 USD/month
  • monthly transport pass: 15–20 USD (discounted for students)
  • books and study materials: 30–50 USD/semester
  • medical insurance: 60 USD for 6 months

About China

China is located at the east coast of the largest continent (Eurasia) as well as the western margin of the largest ocean (Pacific). It has a land area of about 9.6 million square km, occupying 6.5 percent of the total land area of the world. Its population of more than 1.3 billion accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world population.

Facts about China

Before you go study in China, we should first debunk the most famous, yet inaccurate, notion about it, and that’s: if you dig a big enough hole, you will exist through the desert the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote are chasing through. Well, no… you’ll probably exit in Argentina or Chile. Awesome, right?

Now, speaking of cartoon moments, you should also know that, in ancient China, soldiers used mannequins to lure enemies to shoot arrows at, and then used the mannequins to get a free supply of arrows. If you can picture a Chinese soldier holding a helmet on top of a stick and waving it around, you are allowed to laugh hysterically with me before we move on.

Now, let’s cover some interesting facts about the education in China. For instance:

  • Female students in China outperform men to such an extent that some universities have introduced a male quota;
  • Students can get 7 years in jail for cheating on exams;
  • The oldest piece of paper in the world was found in China and dates back to the second or first century B.C. Paper was so durable, it was sometimes used for clothing and even light body armour. Remember to bring a really strong and durable backpack, ok?
  • Pencils are yellow, because, in the 1890’s, the world’s best pencil graphite came from China. Here, the colour yellow is associated with royalty, so American pencil manufacturers started painting their pencils yellow, in order to indicate they contained high-quality Chinese graphite.
  • In 2015, a Chinese woman who was missing for a decade and presumed dead was found living in an internet café, after playing games for 10 years. I know this isn’t necessarily a student fact, but come on: you kind of see the parallel here, right?

Also, some of the things you could say that happen only in China, not related to education, but that you should definitively know, are:

  • The sun can rise as late as ten in the morning, because China, even though it’s a mammoth of a country, joined its five time zones;
  • Also in China, it's illegal to use a wordplay or a pun in advertising or on television. Doesn’t that make you Tso sad?
  • If you don’t believe in the butterfly effect, then this one is going to blow your mind: the air pollution in China increases or decreases the snowfall in California;
  • Ending on a happier note: toilet paper was invented in the 1300s, in China. It was exclusively for the Emperor, so the term “sitting on the throne” makes so much sense, right now…

Interested in scholarships for China? Check out our scholarship search page.

How to Apply to a Master's in China

If you've decided to study a Master's degree at a university in China, you will have to gather the right documents to prove that you fit the university requirements. Provide complete personal information, previous qualifications, financial information, and a personal statement.

What documents do I need to provide to apply in China?

To apply to a university in China you will likely be asked to provide some of the following documents:

  • birth certificate;
  • recent photos;
  • your passport or national identity card;
  • one or more reference letters from past employers or teachers;
  • copies of past diplomas or certificates, including your graduated Bachelor's degree;
  • academic transcripts;
  • letter of intent;
  • Curriculum Vitae;
  • Some form of proof that you can support your stay in the country during your studies.

Depending on the subject or specialization of your chosen Master's, you might also be asked to provide scores for additional tests like the GRE, GMAT or LSAT. Check if your programme requires any of these, or others.

The list of documents depends on the specific requirements of universities in China so you might be asked to include additional documents. It’s also likely you’ll have to provide official English translations of your documents, or translations in the local language.

Prove your English skills

Because you’ll study an international degree in English, you'll have to present a language certificate. Some popular options for international students are IELTS, TOEFL or C1 Advanced language certificates. You’ll have to meet a minimum language score set by the university, and your test scores shouldn’t be older than 1-2 years. If you don’t meet the minimum language requirements, you will have to improve your skills and scores by taking an English preparation course.

Application deadlines for China

The deadlines for applying to a Master's in China are usually during summer (June-July), or in winter (January-February). Keep in mind that some universities don’t have application deadlines, which means you can apply whenever you are ready.

To avoid delays or missed deadlines send your required documents with plenty of time in advance.

Interesting programmes for you

Find PhDs Degrees in China

Recent international policies promote international university cooperation and student exchange between countries worldwide. High-quality study and PhD degrees are made more available to students in order to create a global educational network, achievable through student and staff mobility. Career and research oriented programmes support international student development.

University cooperation enables students study worldwide, for instance in Australia, Asia, Europe and the United States and provides ways of recognizing previous degrees. Different study options offer appropriate alternatives to students, depending on their preferred mode of study.

Many study programmes in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America are English-taught. The most popular international student destinations include the following countries: Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States, and more. However, these are not the only countries offering English-taught education. The rest of the world is full of endless study choices, from highly ranked to smaller, more specialized, universities.

PhD (postgraduate) Degrees

If you want further education beyond the undergraduate level or if you want more personal development or a career in academia, you could obtain a PhD degree. PhD degrees are postgraduate programmes that usually follow a Master's, MPhil or MRes, but there might be additional requirements depending on the university. Students are required to do their own research in a chosen topic. With the help of a supervisor, you develop knowledge and analytical skills in a specific or multidisciplinary field and you carry out independent research. The duration of a PhD degree differs per country and institution. Sometimes your own research is accompanied by work for the department such as giving seminars or small group teaching.

PhD students are required to study on campus under close supervision, but there are universities that accept students enrolled into a part-time distance education PhD degree. Studying on campus can also be full-time as well as part-time, in which case the part-time variant is normally twice as long as the full-time study.

Discover other countries

The Netherlands is a very popular study destination. Internationals choose this beautiful country because Dutch universities are some of the best in Europe, the living standards are high, foreigners are always welcome, and you get to live in one of the happiest and safest countries in the world. The Netherlands is also renowned for innovative technologies and engineering solutions, which is reflected in the wide range of Engineering degrees offered by universities. English is spoken by around 90% of Dutch citizens, so forget about language barriers. Also, bike lanes and the “cycling culture” will help you to stay fit and healthy, and there are diverse job opportunities and internships for international students.
Finland is an excellent choice for all internationals and especially for EU/EEA students who can study at local public universities for free. The beautiful Nordic country has one of the best education systems in the world and ranks among the safest and happiest nations in the world. You can also choose from over 400 English-taught programmes. In your spare time, you can explore the breathtaking Finnish nature and landscapes, as well as the numerous lakes that give the country the nickname ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes.’ From here, you can easily travel to neighbouring countries like Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, or Estonia.
Ireland is among the top countries in the world in terms of quality of life, peace, safety, and development. It represents an appealing blend of beautiful landscapes, English-speaking environments, and a strong, welcoming, and rich culture — of which the Irish people are very proud. International students also enjoy the full support of Irish universities, which hire and train staff that are able to help with accommodation, studies, visa details, or any other challenge.
Norway is a paradise for anyone who wants to study abroad for free. Public universities don’t charge any tuition fees. This policy applies to all international students, regardless of their nationality. The academic standard is very high, and professors are easy to approach, always willing to go the extra mile for their students. Additionally, classes are organised in small groups, which further improves learning and cooperation. You can choose from a wide range of English-taught programmes, and you don’t need to worry about language barriers outside of classes either, because most Norwegians speak English as a second language. Internationals should find it easy to adapt to Norway’s society, which is based on equality and fair opportunities — reflected both in the legal system and in people’s behaviour.
Greece is the cradle of European civilization and the birthplace of philosophy. Greek universities and colleges have a long history in academics, attracting international students from all over the world. Classes are not typically formal, so you can expect open discussions between students and professors, in line with the classical philosophical debate tradition. EU/EEA students don’t pay any tuition at public universities, while non-EU/EEA citizens pay low fees. In Greece, you’ll also enjoy the well-known local hospitality and the wonderful Mediterranean climate. There are many landmarks and monuments waiting to be explored, including the Acropolis, Delphi, the Parthenon, and many others.
Sweden is a very ambitious, eco-friendly, and visionary country. For example, by 2040, it aims to produce all its energy from renewable sources. Universities play an important role in achieving development goals, thanks to their world-class research facilities. If you’re from the EU/EEA, you can study at public universities for free. As a student, you will discover and easily adopt the three main values of Swedish society: freedom, equality, and sustainability. These values are reflected in every aspect of the local society, and you’ll quickly learn to appreciate them. Language barriers are also almost non-existent since around 80% of Swedes speak English.
Switzerland has one of the most advanced free-market economies, which is reflected in the high living standards and the satisfaction of people living here. In terms of higher education, Swiss universities are constantly ranked among the best in Europe, and they shine in areas like Business, Tourism, Culinary Arts, and Engineering. When compared to Western universities, tuition fees in Switzerland are affordable, and all studies — especially PhD programmes — are world-class. You’ll have the opportunity to develop in a multilingual environment and try learning international languages like German, French, or Italian. If you settle down here, the unemployment rates are low, and salaries are well above the European average.
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
Universities in the UK are some of the most highly regarded in the world, and for good reasons. Some of the world's most highly regarded research takes place in British universities, which are regularly featured in international rankings. While studying in the UK, you will be able to develop in a highly multicultural environment with high chances of pursuing lucrative careers after graduation. The teaching in the UK is designed to encourage new idea generation, encouraging individual research and group cooperation, through class discussions and creative assignments.
Canada is one of the most popular study destinations in the world due to its high focus on the quality of its universities and its emphasis on attracting international students who can later immigrate. Canadians are very welcoming to international students and they invest a lot into making sure students are safe, treated fairly, and enjoy their stay in the country. Study in one of the strongest economies in the world while enjoying a high living standard and a flexible study environment. Classes have smaller student groups ensuring everyone gets the attention they need, and encouraging group assignments and debates.
United States
United States
The United States is home to some of the most prestigious universities and colleges in the world. With over 150 universities featured in international rankings, the U.S. has some of the best business schools, medical schools, and engineering schools. Universities and colleges in the U.S. are well known for academic flexibility and ways to customize your study experience with optional studies and extracurricular activities. Depending on where you will be studying, you will be able to visit iconic places like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Goldengate Bridge, The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Disney's Magic Kingdom Park, and much more.
Israel attracts international students through high standards of education and a wide range of English-taught degrees. Local universities shine in areas like Technology, Sciences, Business, and Entrepreneurship. In fact, Israel is a renowned land of innovation, having earned itself the nickname ‘Start-Up Nation’. While living and studying here, you will discover a wonderful culture developed throughout 4,000 years of history; different cultural influences are noticeable everywhere, especially in Israeli food, art, and history. In major cities, English is widely spoken, so communication shouldn’t be a problem. In your spare time, you can visit one of the over 400 nature reserves and 80 national parks.
By studying in Australia you will take advantage of the great student environment both inside and outside classrooms. In addition to some of the best business and engineering schools in the world, you will be able to explore a greatly developed country that still retains its wild side with its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and the Great Outback, with over 500 national parks. Many Australian universities provide internships and work placements, preparing students early on for the job market.


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