China is the UK's second-biggest ELT market, and also its fastest-growing, rising from 11th place in 2014.
Read on for highlights and insights about China from our most recent Student Statistics report and other English UK sources, as the first of a short series on our top sending markets.
How many students does China send to the UK, and for how long?
In 2017, China sent 44,673 students to the UK, staying on average 4.1 weeks. They make up 9.1% of overall student numbers, and 10.2% of student weeks.
Where do Chinese ELT students study?
China is the top source market for state sector English UK members, making up 41.2 per cent of student numbers and 42.2% of student weeks. 10,750 Chinese students accounted for 87,124 student weeks in the state sector in 2017, staying an average of 8.1 weeks.
The Chinese market is responsible for around five times as many student weeks and seven times as many students as Saudi Arabia, the second biggest market for the state sector.
By contrast, Chinese students in private sector centres stay just 2.9 weeks and are the fourth most important market. The number of student weeks rose almost 15% to 98,000 in 2017, with student numbers rising 37.1% to 33,923.
Who are the Chinese ELT students?
The junior market is a very important element of the Chinese ELT demographic, as the QUIC figures for the year demonstrate, with a massive surge in Q3 and many juniors in the mix.
What's the English UK view of the Chinese ELT market?
Jodie Gray, English UK's director of strategic development, says China's all about growth, driven by junior markets and that innovation is the key. "As a sector we need to think about product innovation for the Chinese market and what they like – such as English and leadership, English and sports, immersion in local schools, or English with some kind of history or heritage or some icon of British culture famous in China like Harry Potter.
"They want a unique selling point – the agents need that to help them sell it. It's an incredibly competitive market and the agents want something to help them stand out. They want something a bit different." Also popular are two-centre courses – perhaps where two English UK members work together – or a visit to London.
Standard digital promotional platforms don't work in China, adds Jodie, but everybody is "incredibly tech-savvy." She advises that centres need to have WeChat to communicate with agents, and set up a WeChat profile page, check to see if your website can be indexed by Chinese search engines, and make sure you have Chinese language material on there. It's also good to be on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo.
"Chinese people will book through an agent but will be using these platforms to research about your school," she says, adding that the key is to find good agents, which is why events such as the China Roadshow are critical.
What is English UK doing to support members in the Chinese market?
English UK runs a regular programme of events, often with the British Council in China, to support members in this market. You can still book for:
- The China Roadshow, which has been running very successfully for several years, taking UK summer school providers to several Chinese cities to meet agents interested in junior markets. "Centres come on the Roadshow two or three times then feel established in the market and start doing their own thing," says Jodie.
- StudyWorld, which will be attended by a delegation of 12 Chinese agents representing different regions and interests. The agents will then go on a Fam trip to meet educators in and around London.
In the past 12 months, English UK members have had the opportunity to attend our Fair in Hong Kong, join two major Chinese workshops with the British Council, and take part in other marketing events.
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