CHINA: Beijing to recruit 10,000 more foreign students

Beijing plans to increase the number of overseas students by 14% and send more students abroad as well, according to a report in the Global Times, an English-language offshoot of the official Communist Party's newspaper the People's Daily.

The Times says that to attract 10,000 more foreign students this year, Beijing plans "to renovate the curriculum and improve the quality of faculties".

Meanwhile, the government will allocate funds to support poor students and students in needed majors to study abroad.

"Chinese colleges will also form alliances with Ivy League universities in the US so Beijing students will have a better chance at exchange programmes," the paper reports.

Last year 71,000 overseas students studied in Beijing, most from South Korea, the US and Japan. Overall nearly 240,000 foreign students from 190 countries and regions were in China in 2009, according to Ministry of Education statistics.

The number of overseas scholarships awarded by the Chinese government has increased by 35%, the Times says. It notes that some100,000 Chinese students are studying in the US, almost five times the number of US students in China.

The US government has pledged to send 100,000 students to China over the next four years, according to a joint statement released by the Chinese and US governments during President Obama's visit last November.

Some 176 Beijing primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities can enrol overseas students.

The paper says the favourite majors among foreign students include Putonghua, fine arts and medicine. But majors such as science, business and management are also becoming more popular.

In contrast to the Chinese government's plans to boost the number of its students going abroad to study, one newspaper reported last week that applications for places in Australian universities from Chinese students were predicted to plunge by as much as half for some universities and colleges.

The Australian newspaper said Australia was losing market share to the US and Britain because of soaring costs and uncertain government policies.

"There is certainly a degree of panic about Australia in the market here and I am not sure if Australian institutions understand that," Thomas Wang, manager of Australian education at the education agency China Star in Beijing, told the paper's reporters.

"Some universities are expecting a fall of 20 to 30%," Wang said. "I think that's quite optimistic - I think there will be a fall of 50% for some universities."

As the paper noted, the bad news from China followed cuts in student numbers from India, where a series of attacks on Indian students and a crackdown on visa applications saw a sharp fall in the number of Indian students seeking to study in Australia.

The downturn has forced at least 20 vocational colleges to close. If the forecast collapse in Chinese numbers eventuates, universities will face a severe loss in fee income.