Many Chinese students are opting to learn abroad for a number of reasons, ranging from the obvious (to improve their English) to the less obvious (to avoid the notorious university entry system in China) - and Britain is top of their list.
Quite simply, China sends more students to the UK than any other country: there were 95,000 higher education student enrolments in 2016-17, up from 91,000 the year before. Last year, the House of Lords was told that the number of visas granted to Chinese students to study in Britain had increased by 17 percent.
British independent schools also have strong appeal. There are 9,000 Chinese nationals enrolled in independent schools in 2018, far more than any other nation, with steady growth seen since 2007. Incredibly, more than 10,000 Chinese pupils are learning without even leaving the country: there are now 19 campuses located in China corresponding to independent schools.
All of this is undoubtedly exciting, and now the UK is making it even easier for Chinese students to come and study in the UK. Changes to the UK's Immigration Rules, effective 6 July 2018, mean that Chinese students will no longer be required to provide evidence of finances, qualifications or English language ability with their Tier 4 application.
So how do you make the most of this golden opportunity?
It goes without saying that you mustn't overlook digital. Establishing your school or university on popular social media channels, including Sina Weibo and WeChat, is important for reaching, influencing and ultimately recruiting young people. And don't forget: some of your biggest advocates will be your own students and alumni, who will be active within online communities. Many share accounts of their lives in Britain, from study to fun, with their peers in China.
Oh, and by the way, do you have website content in Simplified Chinese? Social is only part of it; it's helpful to provide information from accommodation to culture and curriculum through your web pages in Chinese. This also means, of course, having brochures and leaflets translated into Chinese too, if provided through the website, and making sure that Chinese social media is integrated. It's easier said than done (you can't just bolt these on), so do speak to us first if you're interested in pursuing this approach.
Digital isn't just appealing to prospective students and parents through telling a good story: it's making sure that you're ready for any Chinese visitors coming into your town or city through, for example, accepting payments through messaging app WeChat (as Camden Market have done). Chinese students arriving in Britain will be followed by friends and family, all of whom will be wanting to experience local tourism and spend money.
Summer schools are also a great opportunity for schools to engage with overseas students. We have organised a number of these with our partners both in China and the UK providing a highly successful programme. If you would like to start discussing this for 2019 summer please let us know.
If you're interested in learning more about the education opportunity, speak to us - we'd be happy to teach you what we know and help get you on the right path!