UK Outshines The US As The Top Destination For Chinese International Students: How To Utilize This Trend 

Do you know that the UK has replaced the US as the top preferred overseas study destination for Chinese international students? 

Historically, most Chinese international students place the US as their top choice for their overseas study destination. And the UK and Australia are the 2nd and 3rd. However, we see changes! According to New Oriental Education and Technology Group, the UK replaced the US as the number one destination in 2020. What’s more, a new report has predicted that the number of Chinese students studying in the UK will rise 70% by 2030.

We can see the trends from the share of Chinese international students preferring to study in the US and UK from 2015 to 2021 in the below chart from Statista. The preference for choosing the UK has continued to go up every year from 2016 to 2021. On the other hand, Chinese international students’ fondness for the US dropped to a new low in 2021.

But, this is no time for UK universities to sit and wait for the number of Chinese international students to grow. The higher education environment is more competitive than ever before. Chinese students have more options — both domestically and globally. And the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a catastrophic impact on mobility and has changed the higher education sector irreversibly.

Don’t forget that the Chinese international students and their parents are mostly digitally savvy. This means that the traditional recruitment approaches require fast adaptation in an increasingly digital environment. The new winners in the Chinese student recruitment race will be the organizations that can best cut through the noise to connect digitally. 


Image credit: South China Morning Post

This post gives you the insights and tools to succeed in the challenging and evolving environment facing the higher education industry. 

  • Why are Chinese international students placing the UK as the top overseas study destination
  • The determining factors of Chinese international students to study overseas 
  • Plan your digital marketing ahead for Chinese students who favor the UK as their top study destination 
  • The 6 phases to digital marketing success for universities in China 

Why are Chinese international students flocking to the UK

Rankings, quality of education & safety 

Besides rankings and quality of education, safety, and student services that the UK universities provide have made them increasingly attractive to Chinese international students. With a rise in anti-Asian violence in the US, according to New Oriental Education and Technology Group, the UK replaced the US as the number one destination in 2020.

The safety of students is one of the most important factors for Chinese international students when considering studying abroad. Therefore, the US is in a less favorable position than the UK. And, Germany, being a very safe country, is highly regarded in China too.

Measures to deal with COVID-19 

Measures to deal with Covid-19 substantially impact the Chinese international students’ decision-making. Many sources have suggested that the UK is ahead of its US competitor, noting that the country’s speedy vaccination rollout is well perceived in China. And the UK was also the first country to deploy an approved Covid vaccine. Furthermore, its population has a high vaccination rate.

Geopolitics & international relations 

At the same time, geopolitics and international relations are of consideration too. A host country’s relationship with China has become a heavily weighted worry for students. Here also, the US lags behind the UK. 

Visa turnaround times & travel restrictions 

Other factors that the UK surpasses the US as the most preferred overseas study destination for Chinese international students are quicker visa turnaround times and fewer travel restrictions. has helped hundreds of brands reach the China market. To see how can help you get started with advertising on top channels hassle-free create a free account today.

The determining factors of Chinese international students to study overseas 

Seeking prestigious overseas education and China’s hyper-competitive education system are key drivers behind the decision by Chinese international students to pursue education abroad for decades. What’s more, there are 10 things you should know about the Chinese international students. 

It’s well-known that Chinese international students (and their parents) value universities’ rankings more than anything else regarding the overseas study. Further to this dominating factor, Chinese students have unique expectations, priorities, and needs.

Parents’ attitude is key

More aspirational middle-class parents in China want high-quality foreign education for their children. More often than not, Chinese parents are the decision-makers when deciding on most detail for studying overseas.

Image credit: Cambridge Network

Quality and employment prospects 

International students from other countries might place overall student life experience and opportunities to travel more. However, Chinese international students recognize the quality of education and employment prospects above all.  

Gaining work experience is important

Chinese international students value opportunities for internships, work placements, and career options. Unfortunately, this kind of information often lacks details on universities’ digital channels.

China-focused communications strategies are critical 

Communicating with your Chinese international students through the channels they are used to is a must! Your institution will significantly benefit by establishing China-focused communications strategies that will enable your institution to reach and engage with your Chinese students and prospective Chinese students. Partner up with; we can help you achieve these quickly and make the process seamless. Read more on our success case study!  

Image credit: Pandaily

Plan your digital marketing ahead for Chinese students who favor the UK as their top study destination 

Want to cut through the noise and reach directly to your Chinese international students? Go digital! 

To understand the importance of a robust digital presence and messaging, it’s essential to know the different behaviors and expectations of the Chinese digital netizens. Almost 50% of potential Chinese international students begin planning to study overseas one to two years or more before their commencement date. And mainly through information they can access digitally. Universities should consider multiple digital channels that connect with future students and their parents during the lengthy decision-making process.

The 6 phases to digital marketing success for universities in China 

Here at AdChina, we suggest taking a 6-phase approach to your China digital marketing strategy. The steps below can help and guide you through actions you should take at each stage. 

Phase 1: Identify

According to available data for your institution, identify the Chinese international students source cities (1st, 2nd, or 3rd city in China) and the best digital channels to reach them.

Phase 2: Establish & Build

Establish your digital presence organically by promoting your institution through Chinese digital assets (online marketing materials) and channels (WeChat, Weibo, Douyin). And then start to build from here. 

Phase 3: Test & Adapt

Plan and start your first demand generation through advertising and campaigns to test your digital approach. And then adapt according to the results. 

Phase 4: Grow

Roll out the planned advertising once you have reached the growth phase of your China digital marketing strategy. You will be able to significantly scale up while benefiting from improved efficiency and cost effectiveness. 

Phase 5: Review

Review the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of your channels and campaigns. 

Phase 6: Repeat

Take critical learnings from the previous advertising campaigns and use them further to improve the next round of advertisements and campaigns.

We know that it might not be as straightforward as it seems. The good news is – AdChina can assist you through the whole digital marketing journey in China! And, we can guide you through the process of picking the top channels which are most effective for your institutions.

Key takeaways

UK surpasses the US as the top destination for Chinese international students. It’s time for your institution to utilize and ride with this trend. Summarized key takeaways:

  • Stay on top of the Chinese international students’ trends and understand their needs
  • China is the largest source country of international students for both the UK and the US 
  • UK overtakes the US as the top destination for Chinese international students
  • Ensure the usage of China-focused digital marketing strategies to communicate with your Chinese international students
  • Besides the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, France, Japan, Singapore are on the top 10 preferred study destinations for Chinese international students

AdChina is your best partner to succeed in digital marketing and reach your Chinese international students 

In a changing and challenging environment facing the higher education industry, are you ready to plan and launch your targeted digital marketing strategies for Chinese international students? Our team of friendly experts at can help! is the first of its kind platform that helps international businesses advertise in China hassle-free. We’ll help you plan, launch, optimize, and scale your campaigns across each of the biggest channels in China — all with just one tool!

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