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					                                                                   Kevin Chambers / Vivien Bao
                                                                              December, 2009


This report summarizes the Chinese educational system and discusses the opportunities for U.S.
education institutions to recruit Chinese students.

The United States is home to many of the world’s top universities and educational institutions
and continues to be a popular destination for students from around the world. American
universities had over 671,616 international students attending in the 2008/2009 academic year,
8 % over the previous year and a record all-time high. In the same year there were 98,235
students from China studying in the United States (up 21.1% from the previous year). China is
the second-leading place of origin for students coming to the United States, following India

China is host to many educational recruitment fairs and events every year that are open to foreign
university recruitment. However, the recruitment market is tightly controlled by China and
foreign universities and educational institutions must partner with Chinese educational advisors
or agents to organize recruitment fairs.


Education in the People's Republic of China is a state-run system of public education run by the
Ministry of Education. The ministry certifies teachers, standardizes curriculum and textbooks,
establishes standards and generally monitors the entire education system. To provide for its
population, China has a vast and varied school system. This includes basic education, vocational
and adult education, and higher /tertiary education.

      Basic Education
       I.     Preschool Education
       II.    Primary Education
       III.   Regular Secondary Education
       IV.    Special Education
      Vocational and Adult Education
      Higher Education

       I.      Entrance Examinations and Admission Criteria
       II.     Tuition and Scholarship and Loan System
       III.    The Changing Landscape of Higher Education
       IV.     Higher Forms of International Cooperation
      Private Education

Basic Education

China's basic education involves pre-school, nine-year compulsory education from elementary to
junior high school, standard senior high school education, special education for disabled children,
and education for illiterate people.

China has over 200 million elementary and high school students, who, together with pre-school
children, account for one sixth of the total population. For this reason the Central Government
has prioritized basic education as a key field of infrastructure construction and educational

The Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, which took effect on July 1, 1986, established
requirements and deadlines for attaining universal education tailored to local conditions and
guaranteed school-age children the right to receive at least nine years of education (five or six
years primary education and four or three years secondary education).

   I. Preschool Education

Preschool education begins at age about three in China. Preschool facilities were to be
established in buildings made available by public enterprises, production teams, municipal
authorities, local groups, and families. The government announced that it depended on individual
organizations to sponsor their own preschool education and that preschool education was to
become a part of the welfare services of various government organizations, institutes, and state-
and collectively operated enterprises. Costs for preschool education varied according to services
rendered. Officials also called for more preschool teachers with more appropriate training.

   II. Primary Education

The development of primary education in so vast a country as China has been a formidable

Under the Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, primary schools were to be tuition-free and
reasonably located for the convenience of children attending them; students would attend
primary schools in their neighborhoods or villages. Parents paid a small fee per term for books
and other expenses such as transportation, food, and heating. Under the education reform,
students from poor families received stipends, and state enterprises, institutions, and other
sectors of society were encouraged to establish their own schools.

Children usually entered primary school at seven years of age for five days a week. The two-
semester school year consisted of 9.5 months, and began on September 1 and March 1, with a
summer vacation in July and August and a winter vacation in January and February. Most
primary schools had a five-year course, except in such cities as Beijing and Shanghai, and later
other major cities, which had reintroduced six-year primary schools and accepted children at six
and one-half years rather than seven.

The primary-school curriculum consisted of Chinese, mathematics, physical education, music,
drawing, and elementary instruction in nature, history, and geography, combined with practical
work experiences around the school compound. A general knowledge of politics and moral
training, which stressed love of the motherland, love of the party, and love of the people, was
another part of the curriculum. A foreign language, often English, is introduced in about the third
grade. Putonghua (common spoken language) was taught in regular schools and pinyin
romanization in lower grades and kindergarten. Most schools had after-hour activities at least
one day per week to involve students in recreation and community service.

   III. Regular Secondary Education (Junior and Senior High Schools)

Secondary education in China is divided into academic or regular secondary education and
specialized/vocational/technical secondary education.

 Chinese regular secondary schools are called middle schools and are divided into junior and
senior levels. Junior, or lower, middle schools offered a four or three year course of study, which
students began at twelve years of age. Senior, or upper, middle schools offered a three year
course, which students began at age fifteen.

The regular secondary-school year usually has two semesters, totaling nine months. In some
rural areas, schools operated on a shift schedule to accommodate agricultural cycles. The
academic curriculum consisted of Chinese, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology,
foreign language, history, geography, political science, music, fine arts, and physical education.
Some middle schools also offered vocational subjects. There were thirty or thirty-one periods a
week in addition to self-study and extracurricular activity. Thirty-eight percent of the curriculum
at a junior middle school was in Chinese and mathematics, 16 percent in a foreign language.
Fifty percent of the teaching at a senior middle school was in natural sciences and mathematics,
30 percent in Chinese and a foreign language.

In China a senior-middle-school graduate is considered an educated person, although middle
schools are viewed as a training ground for colleges and universities. And, while middle-school
students are offered the prospect of higher education, they are also confronted with the fact that
university admission is limited. Middle schools are evaluated in terms of their success in sending
graduates on for higher education, although efforts persist to educate young people to take a
place in society as valued and skilled members of the work force.

   IV. Special Education

The 1985 National Conference on Education also recognized the importance of special education,
in the form of programs for gifted children and for slow learners. Gifted children were allowed to
skip grades. Slow learners were encouraged to reach minimum standards, although those who
did not maintain the pace seldom reached the next stage. For the most part, children with severe
learning problems and those with handicaps and psychological needs were the responsibilities of
their families. Extra provisions were made for blind and severely hearing-impaired children. The
China Welfare Fund, established in 1984, received state funding and had the right to solicit
donations within China and from abroad, but special education has remained a low government

Vocational and Adult Education

The "Law on Vocational Education" was issued in 1996. Vocational education embraces higher
vocational schools, secondary skill schools, vestibule schools, vocational high schools, job-
finding centers and other adult skill and social training institutes.

Diversion of students from academic to technical education was intended to alleviate skill
shortages and to reduce the competition for university enrollment. The public has not been very
enthusiastic over vocational secondary education which, unlike general education, does not lead
to the possibility of higher education. The public’s perception is that these schools provide little
more than a dead end for their children.

Adult education comprises of schooling education, anti-illiteracy education and other programs
oriented to adult groups. Adult schools usually consist of the following: education radio and
television universities, institutions of higher learning for workers and farmers, colleges for
management personnel, education institutes, independent correspondence colleges, adult
education offered by regular institutions higher education, TV education via satellite as well as
the system of examinations for self-taught students at higher level.

Higher Education

Regular/Common higher education comprises of junior college, bachelor, master and doctoral
degree programs. Junior college program usually last 2~3 years; bachelor program 4 years
(medical and some engineering and technical programs, 5 years); master program 2~3 years;
doctoral program 3 years.

China’s higher education is characterized by various forms, which encompasses basically all
branches of learning, combines both degree-education and non-degree education and integrates
college education, undergraduate education and graduate education.

By the end of 2008, China has 2,263 ordinary schools of higher learning, with over 20 million
students and 7.22% more students recruited than the previous year; the gross rate of enrollment
in higher education institutions reached 23.3%. In 2008, the total enrollment in ordinary schools
of higher learning was 6.077 million, 417.400 more than in 2007. There were 5.120 million
students graduated from College or University in 2008, 641.600 more than in 2007 and a 14.33%

   I. Entrance Examinations and Admission Criteria

National examinations to select students for higher education are an important part of China's
culture, and, traditionally, entrance to a higher education institution is considered prestigious.
Although the examination system for admission to colleges and universities has undergone many
changes, it remains the basis for recruiting academically able students. Candidates for entrance
examinations have to be senior-middle-school graduates or the equivalent, generally below
twenty-six years of age.

Liberal arts candidates were tested on politics, Chinese, mathematics, foreign languages, history,
and geography. Science and engineering candidates were tested on politics, Chinese,
mathematics, chemistry, and biology. In addition to the written examination, university
applicants had to pass a physical examination. It sought to ensure that only the most able
students actually entered colleges and universities.

Each provincial-level unit was assigned a quota of students to be admitted to key universities, a
second quota of students for regular universities within that administrative division, and a third
quota of students from other provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities who
would be admitted to institutions operated at the provincial level. Provincial-level administrative
units selected students with outstanding records to take the examinations. Additionally,
preselection examinations were organized by the provinces, autonomous regions, and special
municipalities for potential students (from three to five times the number of places allotted).
These candidates were actively encouraged to take the examination to ensure that a sufficient
number of good applicants would be available.
Other innovations in enrollment practices, included allowing colleges and universities to admit
students with good academic records but relatively low entrance-examination scores. Some
colleges were allowed to try an experimental student recommendation system instead of the
traditional entrance examination. A minimum national examination score was established for
admission to specific departments at specially designated colleges and universities, and the
minimum score for admission to other universities was set by provincial-level authorities. Key
universities established separate classes for minorities. When several applicants attained the
minimum test score, the school had the option of making a selection, a policy that gave
university faculty and administrators a certain amount of discretion but still protected admission
according to academic ability.

   II. Tuition System

For non-compulsory education, China adopts a shared-cost mechanism, charging tuition at a
certain percentage of the cost. Tuitions to China's universities, which currently ranges from
RMB5,000 to RMB10,000 (US$1,470) a year. Meanwhile, to ensure that students from low-
income families have access to higher education, the government has initiated effective ways of
assistance, with policies and measures as scholarships, work-study programs, subsidies for
students with special economic difficulties, tuition reduction or exemption and state stipends.

   III. The Changing Landscape of Higher Education

Since the late 1990s, Chinese higher education has entered a period of rapid change and
transformation. The major force behind these changes is a shift in focus from elite to mass
education. This process went into high gear in 1998, when China had about 6 million college
students representing about 7 percent of the eligible age-group. Nor is the pace likely to slow
anytime soon--by 2010 China hopes to have 23 million students in higher education.

The process of rationalizing and expanding enrollment began with a series of university mergers
in the 1990s. Some schools that had focused on the sciences, engineering, or teaching, for
example, were merged with other schools to create larger “comprehensive universities.” A
second major factor has been the decision to allow private universities to develop. Finally, given
the desire to accommodate more students and the state of extreme crowding in most Chinese
cities, established universities have been encouraged to build new campuses on the outskirts of
towns. Typically, a few core programs will remain at the old campus, while the bulk of the
university will move to the new facilities.

Accompanying these changes, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has reduced from 200 to 72 the
list of “key universities” under its direct control, transferring many schools to the jurisdiction of
their respective provincial governments. This puts more responsibility in local hands and allows
MOE to focus its financial resources on the nation’s top institutions, which are openly eager to
join the ranks of the world’s most prestigious universities. The government’s “211 Plan,”
announced in 1997, directs resources to China’s top 100 universities, bringing as many as
possible into the ranks of the world’s top educational institutions during the 21st century.

These broad ongoing changes reinforce a two-tiered approach to higher education in China.
China’s top schools are focused on raising quality (often with an emphasis on improving
graduate education and research facilities), while provincial schools are expanding and
upgrading to accommodate more students and provide strong basic education to meet China’s
development needs. All universities are striving to distinguish themselves in an increasingly
competitive environment in which students have more educational options and better information
about their choices.

   IV. Higher Forms of International Cooperation

China released “Regulations of the People’s Republic of China on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation
in Running Schools” in 2003 to clarify the types of educational programs that can be offered and
set standards to keep out less-than-reputable institutions. They set guidelines for cases in which
foreign universities may offer diplomas or certificates under their name in China, and require
each project to have a Chinese partner.

A distinction between national and provincial schools is also evident in cooperation with foreign
universities. Many of China’s best known schools already have strong links to foreign
universities, and are moving toward joint degree programs and other forms of collaboration with
the top international schools in their field. At the provincial level, many more universities are
just getting acquainted with their international counterparts. They are eager to catch up, however,
and to initiate scholarly exchanges and sign memorandums of friendship with foreign partners. In
some cases, they are seeking to short-circuit the initial stages of the process and proceed directly
to joint academic programming. Given their access to huge numbers of Chinese students, many
foreign education providers are eager to help provincial universities realize this goal.

The face of higher education in China will continue to evolve for some years to come. China’s
links to international universities can be expected to continue to be an important part of the
process of educating the world’s largest cohort of university students.

Private Education

The government supports private educational organizations. The first "Law on Promotion of
Private Education" came into effect on September 1, 2003.

Development of private schools means an increase in overall education supply and a change in
the traditional pattern of public-only schools, so as to meet educational needs. At the end of 2008,
there were more than 100,900 private schools of all types and level, with a total enrollment of
28.24 million, including 600 private institutes of higher learning, with a total enrollment of 4.01

Private schools have pioneered cooperation with foreign partners in the running of schools and
many foreign universities have entered China this way, which has both improved the quality of
China's education resources and opened new channels for students' further studies.


      General U.S. Market
      China Market Overview
       I. Economic Background
       II. Demographic Background
       III. Market Trends
      Competition and Attitudes
      Visa Requirements
      Market Entry
       I. Internet Recruitment
       II. When To Visit For Students Recruitment Purposes
       III. Education Fairs and Recruitment Events
       IV. Recruitment Agents
       V. Resources

General U.S. Market

American higher education continues to be highly valued throughout the world. U.S. campuses
offer unparalleled opportunities for creativity, flexibility, and cultural exchange. Students from
all over the world contribute substantially to their host campuses and to the U.S. economy.

International students enrollment -- The number of international students at colleges and
universities in the United States increased by 8% to an all-time high of 671,616 in the 2008/09
academic year, according to the Open Doors report, which is published annually by the Institute
of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of
Educational and Cultural Affairs. This is the largest percentage increase in international student

enrollments since 1980/81, and marks the third consecutive year of significant growth (with
increases of 7% in 2007/08 and 3% in 2006/07).

“New” international students enrollment -- Open Doors 2009 data also show the number of
“new” international students -- those enrolled for the first time at a U.S. college or university in
fall 2008 – increasing by 16%, following two years of 10% increases. The largest growth was
seen in undergraduate enrollments, which increased by 11%, compared to a 2% increase in
graduate enrollments. This growth was driven largely by increases in undergraduate students
from China.

Leading places of origin -- India remains the leading place of origin for the eighth consecutive
year, increasing by 9% to 103,260. Students from China, once again the second leading sender,
increased 21% for a total of 98,510. South Korea, in third place, increased 9% to 75,065,
according to Open Doors 2009 reports.

Top host states -- According to Open Doors 2009, universities in California hosted the largest
number of foreign students with 93,124, up 10%, followed by New York with 74,934, up 7%,
and Texas with 58,188, up 12%. The New York City metropolitan area continues to be the
leading city for international students, with 59,322 enrolled in area schools, up 8%. The Los
Angeles metropolitan area is in second place with 42,897 international students, up 11%.

Top host universities -- For the eighth consecutive year, Open Doors reports that the University
of Southern California hosted the largest number of international students, this year reporting
7,482. New York University held in second place with 6,761 international students, and
Columbia University, also holding steady in third place, hosted 6,685. Rounding out the top five
2008/09 host institutions are University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (6,570 students) and
Purdue University (6,136 students). Open Doors reports that 171 U.S. campuses each hosted
more than 1,000 students.

Field of study -- Business and Management remains the most popular field of study for
international students in the United States, increasing by 12% and comprising 21% percent of the
total, followed by Engineering with an 11% increase and comprising 18% of the total. Math and
Computer Science also increased significantly in 2008/09, up 10% from the prior year. After a
15% increase in 2007/08, Intensive English Language showed a slight decline in popularity,
decreasing by 1%.

Funding Sources -- Open Doors 2009 reports that 65% of all international students receive the
majority of their funds from personal and family sources. When other sources of foreign funding
are included, such as assistance from their home country governments or universities, 70% of all
international students’ primary funding comes from sources outside of the United States.
International students contribute $17.8 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures
on tuition and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Higher
education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students
provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including
room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying
family members, and other miscellaneous items.

China Market Overview

China is becoming increasingly attractive as a student recruitment market and increasing
competitive with many educational institutions from around the world recruiting in China. The
total number of Chinese students going to study overseas is growing steadily. Chinese see an
international education as bringing status as well as a pathway to better career opportunities. The
Chinese Ministry of Education indicated that the number of students going abroad in 2008
increased 20 percent over the previous year. The number of Chinese students going to the U.S.
for study has increased over 20%.

While the majority of Chinese students to the US are graduate students, undergraduate study,
high school study, English camps and short-term summer exchanges are becoming more popular.

In 1998/99, China overtook Japan as the leading sender of students to the U.S., and remained in
the number one position until being overtaken by India in 2001/02, and has remained in second
place since.

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    I. Economic Background

        China, with a population of 1.3 billion, is the third largest economy in the world. China’s
        GDP is $ $7.8 trillion (2008 est.) but has a per capita GDP of $6,000 (2008 est.).
        However, wealth is unevenly spread across China. The GDP per capita in East China’s
        Anhui Province is US$2,085 while in nearby Shanghai it is US$10,529.

    II. Demographic Background

        The People's Republic of China is characterized by a large population with a relatively
        small youth segment, which is partially a result of the one-child policy implemented in
        1979. U.N. projections say the population of working-age citizens in China will peak in
        2015 and plunge by 23 percent by 2050. By then, there will be 438 million Chinese 60 or

        There is also a serious gender imbalance caused by selective abortion in favor of males
        that has left China with 32 million more boys than girls. The imbalance led the
        government in 2004 to ban selective abortions of female fetuses. It is estimated that this
        imbalance will rise until 2025–2030 to reach 20% then slowly decrease.

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    III. Market Trends

After China allowed its citizens to study abroad at their own expense in 1981, the number of
Chinese students studying overseas quickly rose. More than 1,000 students went abroad in 1983.
The figure soared to over 100,000 in 1987. In 2008 it was more than 179,800, of whom 90%
were self funded. The most desired destinations for Chinese studying abroad is the United States.

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Between 1978 and 2008, more than 1.39 million Chinese students studied abroad, 390,000 later
returned home and 69,300 returned in the year of 2008.

                                  Chinese Studying Overseas


     in thousands

                          2000   2001   2002   2003   2004    2005   2006   2007

Most students that pass the college entrance exam prefer to attend one of China’s top universities.
If they can’t get into the limited spaces at these top institutions most prefer to attend overseas
universities rather than settle for China’s many second-tier universities.

 China’s one-child policy leaves many parents with an overwhelming desire to assist their only
child obtain the best education possibility.

Competition and Attitudes

Australia and the U.K. are very active players in the overseas study market in China. China
remains the leading place of origin and there are over 100,000 Chinese currently pursuing study
in Australia giving the country a 25% of total market share. The U.K. has a strong education
promotion team and has been active in the market for years. They both have established
relationships with local education agencies, institutions and have partnerships with local
recruitment agents.

Most Australian and U.K. institutions pay education agents in China 10-20% of the first year
tuition. Commission rates paid by Australian institutions are generally higher than rates paid by
other countries. Many U.S. institutions don’t pay any commission because agents are often
willing to refer students to U.S. universities because of client preference for the U.S.

Visa Requirements

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All students must obtain F-1/F-2, J-1/J-2 or M-1/M-2 (students, vocational students, and
exchange visitors) visas to study in the United States. The rate of visa issuances to Chinese
students increases for consecutive years. In 2008, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China
issued 77,406 visas to Chinese academia and vocational students, researchers, and exchange
scholars. This was a record number of student visa issuances in China, an astonishing 46%
increase over 2007.

2008 China-wide Student Visa Issuances to Chinese Nationals:
F1 – 57,116
J1 – 19,087
M1 – 1,203
TOTAL: 77,406
University admission officers should be aware of and counsel prospective students on visa
procedures, which can affect travel to the United States. Information pertaining to visa
procedures can be found on the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General Shanghai’s website:

Market Entry

Government regulations, as well as market conditions, can impact American education
institutions activities in the Chinese market. Regulations, in particular, can be unclear and change
over time. This report provides information of a general nature only. In considering your
commitment to the China market it is important that you perform thorough due diligence and
consult with experts well versed in China’s unique environment.

For U.S. education institutions that want to expand their student recruitment market in China, we

    1. Develop Chinese-language websites. Many parents will not visit an English website and
       they are the decision makers on their children’s study.

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    2. Increase outreach programs and take steps to meet more potential clients. Make
       connections to previous graduates from China through your alumni relations office.
       Enlist these former students to help recruit new Chinese students.

    3. Attend education fairs in China to directly recruit students.

    4. Establish a good relationship with local authorized recruitment agents and overseas
       advising centers. However, be careful to screen potential partners to ensure they have
       ethical recruitment policies.

    5. Meet with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates to learn about student
       visas and to inform the visa officers about your program. The U.S. Consulate in
       Shanghai has a weekly “education hour” for briefing U.S. educational institutions. See
       the Consulate website for more information: http://shanghai.usembassy-

    6. Use the many services of the U.S. Commercial Service to help promote your institution
       or university in China.        See our webpage at: or

    I. Internet Recruitment

Online recruitment strategies should be integrated with the overall recruitment strategy in order
to maximize return on recruiting investments. It is quite possible for Chinese students to arrange
to study overseas without using the services of an education agent. Use of the Internet by
students to research institutions to apply to is increasingly common in China. Even when
families use agents to select institutions they supplement the agents’ information with what they
can gather on the Internet.

China has the world’s largest Internet user-base. While Internet penetration is only 19% in
China (versus 73% in the U.S.) the total number of users is 254 million, compared to 220 million
in the U.S. In China, nearly 60 percent of the total number of Internet users is in the age bracket
18-35 and nearly 30 percent of the users are students.

To maximize the effectiveness of a web presence for recruiting Chinese students the web pages
should be in Chinese. While it is often reported that there are as many as 300 million English-
learners in China there are only about 10 million mainland Chinese (less than 1% of population)
that are English speakers. Written Chinese comes in two forms; simplified and traditional. In
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mainland China simplified Chinese characters are used while the traditional form of characters
are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    II. When to Visit for Student Recruitment Purposes

June, July, and August is the time when third-year high school students finish their college
entrance exams and other students enter final exams and have a summer holiday. This time is
usually when the agents will have promotional events. Note (see below) that most education
fairs are in the mid fall, mid spring, and June timeframes.

January and February is usually the winter holiday period, when students will also consider and
make decisions on studying abroad.

    III. Education Fairs and Recruitment Events

Institutions often get their first exposure to the Chinese market by attending an education
exhibition or fair. These fairs provide a good opportunity, in a structured setting, to meet with
Chinese students who are interested in studying abroad, as well as the student’s parents and
education agents. Many institutions have found education fairs an excellent venue for
undergraduate recruitment, though institutions with stringent admission standards or very good
brand name recognition often opt for other types of activities.

Fairs generally occur in the mid fall, mid spring, and June timeframes. Major education fairs
include the China Education Expo (CEE) and China International Education Exhibition (CIEE),
but exhibitions organized by cities, education agents, or even private schools can also be
worthwhile events to attend. You may arrange your institutions participation directly with the
fair organizers, though most often institutions work with a third party who can help coordinate.
For example, many American institutions work with the U.S. Commercial Service to facilitate

Education fairs in China must be organized by the Ministry of Education or its local branches or
by education agents that have been licensed by the Ministry. Foreign institutions or governments
wishing to organize education fairs must do so through one of the above.

In addition to your travel costs to attend, there are varying fees for participating in fairs. (CEE)

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    IV. Recruitment Agents

Education agents play a major role in the Chinese international education market and are
licensed by the Ministry of Education. The agents counsel students about their options for
overseas study and help them complete applications and apply for visas. Chinese families use
agents because they lack knowledge about overseas education systems and the criteria to use in
choosing a university. Even if the family has a good understanding of the system they often do
not have the time to devote to handling the arrangements themselves.

The services agents provide to students may be paid for by the students’ families or the
educational institution or both. Service fees collected from the students vary widely and may
include airline ticket booking and visa application papers. If the agent works on a commission
basis for the institution they are generally paid an agreed percentage of the tuition fee received
from each successfully placed student. Some institutions pay a retainer or underwrite the costs
of promotional work undertaken by the agent on their behalf.

Entering into an agreement with one or more reputable agents is one of the easiest ways to
establish student recruiting in China. The use of reputable agents offers a cost-effective means
of increasing outreach in China, where activities of overseas institutions are tightly controlled or
limited. Institutions should evaluate the education agents carefully to avoid partnering with
agents that don’t operate according to ethical standards or with the best interests of the students
in mind.

Institutions can consider a wide range of agreement types with Chinese education agents, from
open-ended contracts to exclusive agreements. As there are hundreds of agent companies in
China and their quality and reputation vary greatly, it is important to investigate agents carefully
before agreeing to work with them. The U.S. Commercial Service offices in China can offer
business counseling in this regard, as well as financial background checks

While the Chinese Ministry of Education has guidelines regulating education agents and their
businesses, enforcement of the regulations are uneven throughout the country. In some areas of
China it is common for licensed agents to “rent out” their licenses to other, unlicensed agent
businesses. A list of officially approved Chinese education agent companies can be found on the
Ministry of Education (MOE) website at or at
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The legal representatives of agent businesses must be Chinese citizens. In order to protect the
interests of Chinese students and prevent illegal dealings, registration at the local Public Security
Bureau and a bank deposit of at least RMB 500,000 are required as a guarantee against bad

Many agents are strictly local in scope but some large agencies have offices in more than one
city and a network that stretches beyond their home base. Working with agents that are part of a
network provides an opportunity to reach students in several areas of the country.

If you need a physical office and an entity in the local market you may want to work with an
agent to set up a virtual office within the agent’s office. If your institution has the resources to
take this route an agreement should be drafted which specifies your expectations. The agreement
should clearly address commissions and whether or not your institution will pay commissions on
all students recruited by your virtual office.

 Based on the agreement, the agent may be able to assist with applications for work visas to
expedite travel to China for your representatives, allow for access to a bank account through
which you can transfer your operational funds to China, as well as provide office staff and
logistical support if needed.

Most agents represent a large number of foreign institutions from several countries and few are
willing to enter into exclusive agreements. This is especially true in cities such as Shanghai
which license fewer than 15 education agent businesses.

In the East China region in 2009 there are 13 licensed education agencies in Shanghai, 21 in
Zhejiang Province, 28 in Jiangsu Province and 5 in Anhui Province. Most of the licensed
agencies are subsidiaries of state-owned enterprises or state educational institutions. There is
usually a close working relationship between the local (city or provincial) branch of the Ministry
of Education and the licensed agents. New licenses are very difficult to obtain so there tends to
be a lot of stability in the lineup of agents. Although the restrictive licensing system was
introduced in 1999 to protect students the system also protects the market for government-owned
agent businesses. Foreign institutions or businesses cannot obtain agent licenses.

Many businesses that have been unable to obtain agent licenses partner with a licensed agent
under a sub-license agreement. The regulations do not permit sub-licensing so the arrangements
are often referred to as “departments” of the licensed agencies.

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    V. Resources

To identify emerging needs for overseas education, American institutions are advised to keep
themselves updated on economic and social changes in China. The following websites and
services may be helpful:

        Xinhua News Agency Online News Service
        Official Web Portal of the Central People's Government of PRC
        Chinese Ministry of Education
        China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE)
        List of Chinese Higher Education Institutions
        Promotes US education to Chinese
        Electronic Education Fair Promotes United States as Higher Education Destination to
        Chinese Students

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