Harnessing the Power of Digital: A Journey into UK Chinese Students' World in 2023

Harnessing the Power of Digital: A Journey into UK Chinese Students' World in 2023

30 June 2023 | Lorrie J & Shy L| 7 min read

Unveiling the latest HESA data: Chinese students in the UK witnessed an astonishing surge. Numbers don’t lie—44,475 more students, a remarkable 41% increase from 2017-18 to 2021-22. In the last enrollment year alone, a whopping 27% of non-EU students were Chinese. Let’s explore the factors behind this remarkable growth and its impact on UK higher education.

Top non-EU student markets for UK universities in 2021/22. Source: HESA

Also, even with the difficulties faced by the UK higher education sector during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020/21, according to Study International (2020), “More Chinese students are choosing British universities despite the pandemic.”

Chinese students have been at the top of the list of top 10 sending countries to the UK for a number of years. The digital landscape has become an integral part of their lives. As they navigate their academic journeys and embrace new cultural experiences, digital channels have emerged as essential tools for communication, socialisation, and information sharing.

With the rapid growth of technology and the increasing connectivity between China and the UK, it’s no surprise that there are a ton of digital platforms popping up just for Chinese students in the UK. These platforms are designed to cater to their unique needs and preferences, making their lives easier and more exciting.

This blog aims to shed light on the popular digital channels that have gained immense popularity among Chinese students in the UK. We will delve into the key platforms, their functionalities, and the ways in which they have become an integral part of the lives of Chinese students.

Get ready to dive into the vibrant and ever-changing digital landscape for Chinese students in the UK. We’ll spill the beans on the most often used platforms, the latest trends, and how these digital channels have revolutionised the way Chinese students connect, learn, and have a blast during their time in the UK. Let’s get started!

Understanding the Chinese Student Demographic

Before jumping straight into digital channels, it is crucial to understand the characteristics and preferences of Chinese students studying in the UK. Chinese students bring a unique set of values and expectations shaped by their cultural background and educational experiences. Family values, respect for authority, and a collective mindset are central to Chinese culture. Chinese students often value traditions and maintain strong ties to their families. Understanding and embracing these cultural nuances is key to creating an inclusive environment where Chinese students feel supported and understood.

The Chinese education system differs significantly from the UK system, with a strong focus on academic achievement and intense competition. Understanding these differences and the challenges Chinese students may face when transitioning to a new educational system is crucial for providing appropriate support and guidance.

Knowing more about the Chinese students studying in the UK is super important for universities and service providers. It helps them meet the students’ specific needs, create support systems just for them, and make sure they feel welcome. By understanding their demographic, institutions can come up with smart strategies to engage them academically, help them integrate with the local culture, and communicate with them through digital channels. It’s all about making their overall experience awesome and ensuring they have the best time during their studies in the UK!

Importance of Digital Channels

Digital channels are a must when it comes to connecting with students worldwide, and that goes for Chinese students in the UK too. These platforms are super handy, accessible, and let us have personalised communication, which is perfect for catering to the preferences and needs of Chinese students. Using these channels helps universities and organisations bridge the gap and form meaningful connections with these students. We can chat with them in their language of choice, share cool stuff they’d be interested in, and provide instant support to make their student experience awesome and make them feel like they belong.

To better communicate and engage with Chinese students, UK universities are stepping up their game. Since popular western social media sites are blocked in China, these universities are getting creative through their digital strategies by creating accounts on Chinese social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat. It’s a clever move that lets them directly reach out to Chinese students, share important info, and have conversations that actually matter to them.

These localised efforts not only help universities overcome the communication barriers but also demonstrate their commitment to understanding and accommodating the needs of Chinese students studying in the UK. By utilising Chinese social media platforms, UK universities can effectively connect with this student demographic and foster a sense of community, ensuring that these students feel supported and valued throughout their academic journey.

Now, let’s explore some of the most popular digital channels used to connect with Chinese students in the UK:


Chinese students studying abroad are big on social media, and a bunch of them have jumped on the western bandwagon with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. It’s pretty cool because they get to find out new stuff and broaden their horizons culturally. Some even follow their lecturers on Twitter and LinkedIn, you know, to keep in the loop. But here’s the twist – even though they might have accounts on Twitter and Facebook, they don’t really use them that much. Instead, their go-to social networking platform is WeChat. That’s the one they’re all about when they’re studying abroad.

WeChat, often referred to as the “Super App,” is an all-in-one platform that integrates messaging, social networking, and e-commerce features. WeChat is like the ultimate app for Chinese students. It’s got everything you need. Chinese students practically live on WeChat, using it for chatting, hanging out, and accessing all sorts of services.

Also, based on a survey of 1,000 Chinese students in the UK, around 80% use WeChat as their primary communication platform. On average, Chinese students in the UK spend around 90 minutes per day on WeChat, using it to communicate with friends, family and classmates back in China. One said, ‘Except for the sleeping time, I will use one-third of my time after I wake up using WeChat.’ 

If universities and organisations want to stay connected with these students, they better get on WeChat too. They can create official accounts and keep students updated about events, courses, and all the important stuff. It’s the perfect way to chat with students in their language, share news, resources, and make everyone feel like part of a big community. As of January 2018, just over half (82/163) of UK universities had a public account on WeChat.

Case Study: The University of Manchester established an official WeChat account, tailoring content specifically for Chinese students. They used the platform to share news, stories, and events, fostering engagement and building a strong online presence within the Chinese student community.


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Back in August 2012, a study looked into how UK universities were using Weibo, and it turned out that 58% (94 out of 163) of them had an account on the platform. It seemed like some of these accounts were set up by the universities’ China office or their Chinese agents. To gain more credibility and attract prospective students, alumni, and followers, universities went the extra mile and got their Weibo accounts verified. Fast forward to January 2018, and the number had risen to 73% (119 out of 163) of UK universities having a Weibo account.

Weibo is a microblogging platform similar to Twitter, with a large user base in China. Chinese students in the UK use Weibo to follow universities, organisations, and influencers for updates and information. Weibo allows for quick sharing of news, photos, and videos, making it an effective platform for universities to reach Chinese students.

Chinese students can easily follow relevant university accounts, education influencers, and student organizations to receive updates on academic events, campus news, scholarship opportunities, and study resources. Weibo allows students to stay informed and connected to the latest happenings in the academic community.

Sid Krommenhoek, founder of Zinch, said “Weibo is ubiquitous in China,” studies show 80% of China’s university students are on Weibo and 42% use it every day. Also, Nick Pearce, a teaching fellow at the University of Durham’s Foundation Centre, who has been researching Weibo use by UK universities, said “one reason UK universities should hop on Weibo is to create a comfortable space for students to engage. It’s not just about students, though. Parents can also use it as an alternative means to get in touch, offering a more relaxed approach than directly approaching the universities.”

Case Study: The University of Bristol actively maintains a Weibo account, sharing news about campus events, student life, and academic programs. To promote their university more they added their WeChat QR code on the main page of their website. Allows people to easily access and learn more about the university as a whole. They engage with students by responding to comments and organizing interactive campaigns, cultivating a vibrant online community.


Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has exploded in popularity among young Chinese users. It’s a fantastic platform for universities to engage with Chinese students by showcasing campus life, sharing student testimonials, and highlighting academic achievements.

Universities can use Douyin’s short videos to capture the vibrant and dynamic aspects of campus life. By capturing and sharing moments of student activities, events, and the overall campus atmosphere, universities can create a virtual experience that resonates with the visually-oriented nature of Chinese students.

One of the key advantages of Douyin is its ability to feature authentic student testimonials. Chinese students highly value the experiences and insights of their peers when making educational decisions. By sharing videos of current students discussing their challenges, successes, and overall experiences, universities can establish a genuine connection with prospective Chinese students. These testimonials provide valuable glimpses into student life and help potential students envision themselves as part of the university community.

Moreover, Douyin offers a great platform for universities to highlight their academic achievements and research breakthroughs. Whether showcasing innovative projects, faculty expertise, or remarkable student accomplishments, universities can capture attention and create excitement among Chinese students through engaging Douyin videos. Sharing these achievements helps position universities as leading institutions and attracts ambitious students seeking academic excellence.

Case Study: The University of Birmingham collaborated with Chinese student influencers on Douyin to create fun and informative videos showcasing campus facilities, cultural experiences, and student activities. This approach garnered significant engagement, with the videos reaching a wide audience and attracting prospective Chinese students.

Example: Join us for a tour at Birmingham School of Dentistry!

Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu):

Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book, is a super popular social commerce platform in China. Chinese students studying in the UK absolutely love using Xiaohongshu to get all kinds of information about their study abroad experience, lifestyle, and shopping.

Basically, Xiaohongshu is like a treasure trove of product recommendations and travel experiences. Students can find real reviews and advice from other users who have been there and done that. It’s a great way for them to get insider tips and make smart decisions about their life in the UK.

Chinese students can document their own study abroad journey, share tips on how to survive and thrive in a new culture, recommend awesome hangout spots, and give insights into what it’s really like to be a student in the UK. It’s a way for them to connect with their fellow students, exchange ideas, and build a supportive community.

For universities and organisations looking to reach Chinese students, being on Xiaohongshu is a no-brainer. It’s a fantastic way to engage with students, share useful content, and show off what your university has to offer. By being active on the platform, you can attract prospective students and get your brand noticed within the Chinese student community in the UK.

Case Study: The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) utilized Xiaohongshu to engage with Chinese students. They shared insights on campus life, local experiences, and study tips. LSE collaborated with student ambassadors to create content that resonated with the target audience, leading to increased brand visibility and engagement.

Detailed overview of the life and requirements of LSE


Douban can be immensely helpful to Chinese students in their studies. With its extensive database, students can easily search for books and access dedicated webpages that provide recommendations and comments from fellow readers. The platform’s tagging system allows users to explore relevant resources in various fields. This feature aids students in discovering additional materials and expanding their knowledge base. Douban also offers a platform for discussion and interaction, enabling students to connect with others who share similar academic interests. This fosters a sense of community and provides opportunities for collaborative learning. Overall, Douban serves as a valuable resource for Chinese students, facilitating access to educational materials, promoting exploration, and enhancing the learning experience.

According to a focus group, they found Douban to be a super helpful resource for their personal endeavors. When they want to dive into books, they rely on Douban’s search function to quickly find the ones they’re looking for. You can easily found what is your desire since each book has its own page with recommendations and comments from other readers. Additionally, Douban allows its users to employ tags pertaining to books, music, and films. So, members of this online community can effortlessly explore resources associated with these tags, while benefiting from the platform’s personalised recommendations. Overall, Douban plays a major role in helping them with their learning journey. It’s an awesome website that’s totally worth checking out!

These examples demonstrate how universities and organisations have effectively utilised digital channels to connect with Chinese students in the UK. By understanding their preferences and leveraging these platforms, institutions can share relevant information, build a sense of community, and foster engagement.

Effective Strategies for Connecting Chinese Students

While digital channels provide opportunities for connection, it is essential to employ best practices to effectively engage Chinese students:

Tailor Content

To tailor content that truly resonates with Chinese students, it’s all about to consider their cultural background, language preferences, and interests. This means acknowledging their diverse and unique characteristics to effectively communicate and engage with them.

It’s super important to get a good grip on their cultural background of Chinese students. Take the time to familiarise yourself with their values, traditions, and social norms. Avoid falling into stereotypes or making assumptions. And when you dive into sensitive topics like politics, religion, or historical events, be extra careful, approach these subjects with sensitivity and handle them carefully to foster a respectful learning environment.

Additionally, don’t forget to collect feedback from Chinese students! It’s like gold, data/feedback is a short cut to improve your content right away. By incorporating their preferences and suggestions, you can better align the material with their needs and interests. Stay informed about evolving cultural and linguistic trends to ensure the ongoing relevance and resonance of your content. This proactive approach demonstrates your commitment to providing valuable and up-to-date information that genuinely connects with Chinese students.

Cultivate Interactive Engagement

When it comes to communicating with Chinese students, it’s crucial to be responsive and keep the conversation going. Don’t leave them hanging! Respond to their comments, messages, and inquiries quickly. Show them that you’re there and ready to engage.

To take it up a notch, organise some interactive campaigns, contests, or live Q&A sessions. Get them involved and excited! These activities not only boost engagement but also create a sense of community. It’s like building a little online family.

Don’t limit yourself to just one platform. Use popular social media platforms in China like WeChat, Weibo, or Douyin (TikTok) to reach as many students as possible. Take advantage of the interactive features available, such as polls, quizzes, or discussion threads. Get creative and make it fun!

During live Q&A sessions or interactive campaigns, make sure to encourage students to ask questions, share their thoughts, and give feedback. It’s all about creating an open and welcoming space where they feel comfortable expressing themselves. Embrace different perspectives and show empathy when addressing their concerns.

By fostering two-way communication and building a lively community, you’ll not only keep the students engaged but also provide them with a valuable and enjoyable learning experience. So, let’s get the conversation rolling and make it a blast!

Collaborate with Influencers

To reach a bigger crowd of Chinese students and make a real impact, teaming up with student influencers or ambassadors is a smart move. These influencers know their peers inside out and can co-create content with you that truly hits home and resonates.

Student influencers have the power to influence their followers with their authentic perspectives and insights. They know what’s hot, what’s trending, and what their fellow students care about. By partnering with them, you can tap into their knowledge and expand your reach to connect with more Chinese students.

When choosing influencers to work with, find those who are a perfect match for your goals and target audience. Look for individuals who are passionate about education, cultural exchange, or relevant fields. That way, their content will feel genuine and really connect with their followers.

Collaborating with influencers can take many forms. They can create blog posts, videos, or social media content for you. They can even participate in live events or webinars. Their unique perspectives and creativity will inject new life into your content and make it more relatable.

Throughout the partnership, keep the lines of communication open. Clearly communicate your expectations, goals, and guidelines. This way, you’ll ensure that the content they create aligns with your organization’s values and speaks directly to the target audience.

By teaming up with Chinese student influencers or ambassadors, you’ll harness their influence, expand your reach, and deliver content that truly resonates with Chinese students. It’s a win-win situation that will bring fresh perspectives and drive real engagement. Let’s make some waves together!

Share Relevant Information

To make sure Chinese students stay in the loop and get excited, it’s crucial to keep them updated on academic programs, scholarships, campus events, and cultural activities that they’ll find interesting. The information should be easy to find, accurate, and presented in a language they understand.

First things first, accuracy is key. Make sure the info you provide is up-to-date and reliable. Nobody wants outdated or misleading details. Keep everything fresh and on point.

Accessibility is also super important. Optimise your website for mobile devices because Chinese students are all about their smartphones. Make sure it’s user-friendly with clear menus and search functions. And hey, consider using platforms like WeChat or dedicated Chinese microsites. That way, you’ll give them a localised experience that they’re familiar with.

Highlight what matters to them. Show them why your academic programs, scholarships, events, and cultural activities are awesome. What makes them special? Share success stories of Chinese students who’ve had a great time at your institution. It’ll inspire and motivate others to join in on the fun.

Leverage Multimedia

To catch the eyes of Chinese students and get your message across, it’s all about visuals, videos, and infographics. Chinese students love content that’s engaging and visually appealing.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so use stunning visuals to break up boring text. Show off campus life, events, and academic scenes that resonate with Chinese students. The right visuals can tug at their heartstrings and make an instant connection.

Videos are a hit with Chinese students. Create awesome videos that give them a virtual tour of campus, feature students sharing their experiences, or highlight exciting events. Keep them short and snappy, and don’t forget to share them on platforms like YouTube, WeChat, or Weibo.

When you’re promoting your content on social media, go big with visuals. Chinese students scroll through their feeds fast, so make sure your images, videos, or GIFs stand out. Grab their attention and make them want to learn more.

With visuals, videos, and infographics, you’ll captivate Chinese students, make your content more exciting, and leave a lasting impression. Let the visuals do the talking!

How Digital Channels Revolutionalised the Way to Connect

Digital channels have completely transformed how universities and organizations connect with Chinese students in the UK. Platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Douyin, and Xiaohongshu have revolutionized the way we engage and support them. These platforms offer convenience, accessibility, and personalised communication, allowing for effective and meaningful interactions.

To effectively connect with Chinese students, it’s crucial to understand their preferences and cultural nuances. By tailoring content specifically for them, institutions can create a more personalised and engaging experience. This includes providing information that is relevant to their needs and interests, as well as addressing cultural sensitivities.

Utilising digital channels successfully not only enhances the overall student experience but also fosters a sense of belonging within the Chinese student community. By actively engaging with students through these platforms, universities and organisations can build strong online communities and establish a trusted presence.

Time to Expand

If you’re aiming to tap into or recruiting the vast Chinese students market in China, leveraging social media and combine Baidu PPC advertising can be your pathway to success. However, it’s important not to rush in blindly with excitement. Before diving into social media, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research, understand the intricacies of the Chinese market, and ensure that your marketing campaigns are tailored to the local audience. Taking these steps will maximise your chances of achieving success in the Chinese market.

There are much more strategies and tactics you can leverage to win the China market. You can find out more from our latest e-book with over 100 resources here: Download Now! Or book a Free Discovery Call with our Baidu PPC campaign team. Book now!


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