Beijing's 2014 student figures are 3,364 fewer than 2012. In sharp contrast, student populations in Jiangsu, Liaoning and Shangdong have seen increases of 4,000+ each, while overall number of foreign students nationwide grew from 328,330 to 377,054.
According to the report, 44 percent of all international students in China are degree-seeking, with the rest enrolled in non-degree programs or studying part time. If we presume Beijing reflects this trend (specific figures for Beijing were not released), that implies the city had about 32,700 degree-seeking students and 41,600 others in 2014.
The data indicates that international students are now opting for second- and third-tier cities instead of Beijing, the country’s long-standing center of higher education and home to the largest number of universities.
The "expat bubble" was cited as one of the primary reasons for students to stay away from Beijing. In an interview with Global Times, a 22-year-old Italian named Denise was quoted as saying that she opted for Kunming because “she can spend more time to practice Chinese there”.
“Most Chinese people in big cities are already used to seeing foreigners and have been to other countries themselves, so they are not curious to communicate with me compared to people in smaller cities,” Denise was quoted as saying.
However, while Beijing's English level is indeed higher than most cities in China, we call bullshit on that as the primary reason for student flight from Beijing: also high on the list of reasons to avoid Beijing are its international reputation for air pollution; overcrowding and skyrocketing living costs.
In terms of national origin, Korea is at the top, representing 17 percent of the total foreign student population. That's more than three times the students of the next largest national student bodies, those of the US (6.4 percent), Thailand (5.6 percent) and Russia (4.6 percent).
Though no Oceanic or African nations are in the top 15, these two regions represent the largest growth in students over the past two years. Student enrollment from Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and surrounding countries) grew by 32 percent, with African enrollment increasing by 25 percent.
The Global Times report also indicated that local governments in second and third tier cities have been leading the charge on providing more scholarships to international students. For instance, since 2010, the provincial government of Jiangsu has set aside RMB 15 million ($2.42 million) each year for a scholarship fund targeting international students.
However, with all that being said, hold on a minute before packing your stuff and leaving. There are always pros and cons. Living in a smaller city can still be inconvenient sometimes. It’s not fun when you can’t find a doctor who can't speak your native tongue, and in some cases dialects and accents different from standard Mandarin can be an issue.
What’s more important is Beijing offers much more job opportunities than smaller cities. Not to mention the pathetically unfashionable nightlife in smaller Chinese cities.
d. Central China Normal University
e. Zhongnan University of Economic and Law
f. Huazhong Agricultural University
2. Top Universities in Tianjin
a. Tianjin University
b. Nankai University
3. Top Universities in Jiangsu
a. Nanjing University
b. Southeast University
c. Nanjing Normal University
f. China Pharmaceutical University
g. Soochow University
h. China University of Mining and Technology
i. Hohai University
4. Top Universities in Shandong
a. Shandong University
b. Shandong University, Weihai
c. Ocean University of China
d. China University of Petroleum
5. Top Universities in Zhejiang
d. Wenzhou University
e. Hangzhou Normal University
f. Zhejiang Normal University
6. Top Universities in Liaoning
a. Northeastern University
d. Dalian Maritime University
7. Top Universities in Fujian
a. Xiamen University
b. Fuzhou University
c. Wuyi University
d. Xiamen University of Technology
e. Fujian University of Technology
8. Top Universities in Shanghai
a. Fudan University
b. Shanghai Jiao Tong University
c. East China Normal University
d. Donghua University
e. Shanghai International Studies University
9. Top Universities in Guangdong
d. South China Normal University
e. Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine
10. Top Universities in Beijing
a. Tsinghua University
b. Peking University
e. Renming University of China (RUC)
f. Beijing Institute of Technology
g. China Agricultural University