Chinese flock to US for further education

08:16, November 17, 2010      

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Chinese students and parents visit the US booth at the China Education Expo 2010 in Beijing on Oct 17. (Wang Jing / China Daily)

Thanks to strong economic growth and a growing middle class, China has surpassed India for the first time this decade to become the country that sends the most students to the United States, according to the annual report the Institute of International Education (IIE) released on Monday.

The number of Chinese students in the US has increased by 30 percent during the 2009-2010 academic year to about 128,000, or 18.3 percent of the total international student population in the country, the report said.

India, which has been in the leading position in recent years, has seen its figure grow by only 2 percent in the past academic year to a total of about 105,000.

The report shows the top three majors for Chinese students are business and management, engineering, and physical and life sciences. Meanwhile, more than a third of Indians choose engineering and a fifth study math and computer science.

According to the US Department of Commerce, international students contributed $20 billion to the US economy in 2009, as about two-thirds rely primarily upon personal and family funds to pay for their studies.

Although most Chinese in the US study in graduate schools, more and more younger Chinese students enroll in undergraduate programs.

Last year, the number of Chinese undergraduates in the US increased by 50 percent year-on-year to nearly 40,000, more than four times as many as five years ago.

"The biggest growth among Chinese students is at the undergraduate level," said Peggy Blumenthal, executive vice-president of IIE.

"The Chinese economy is booming. The growing middle class are able to send their children abroad for higher education as many families have only one child and they use all their resources on that child."

Another reason, she said, is that many Chinese parents are attracted by the US higher education system, which boasts multidisciplinary studies, active student participation, joint faculty-student research and promotion of innovation and creativity.
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