How to Recruit Chinese Students in 2021 (PART I)?

How to Recruit Chinese Students in 2021 (PART I)?

July 6, 2021 | Janie Zhou


Since COVID-19, most schools went to teaching online, so the students complete the courses at home. Also, many schools have decided to extend online teaching to the summer semester.

Furthermore, most countries have restricted visa processing and international navigation. Under the combined influence of the pandemic and the international environment, many Chinese students that intend to study abroad feel anxious and confused. 

According to the How Covid-19 Is Impacting Prospective International Students Across the Globe released by QS, a global higher education analysis organisation in the second half of 2020. More than half of the 30,000 international students surveyed indicated that their study plans were affected by the coronavirus, which accounted for 66% of Chinese students.

Which of these, best describe how the coronavirus has changed your plans to study abroad?
Which of these, best describe how the coronavirus has changed your plans to study abroad?

However, less than 10% have decided to cancel their study abroad plans, and Chinese students accounted for only 4%. Data from iiMedia Research (a world-renowned third-party data mining and analysis organisation for the new economy industry) also shows that nearly 90% of Chinese students think it is safer to stay in China, and only 20.7% choose to give up studying abroad. Also, since China is the country with the best pandemic control, Chinese students are relatively more popular than students from other countries.

Therefore, China’s overseas study market is still huge, and how to recruit Chinese students and seize the Chinese study abroad market is a major challenge for many schools in 2021.

How Big is the Study Abroad Market in China?

According to the data in the 2020 Global Study Abroad Market Changes and Chinese Students Choice Behavior Analysis Report, from 2013 to 2019, the number of Chinese studying abroad has increased each year, and the growth rate has fluctuated greatly.

Therefore, we believe that the investment in education will increase along with the enhancing income level of Chinese residents. Also, for the increasingly fierce competition of the college entrance examination in China, more Chinese parents can support their children to study abroad.

2021 Development Background of Studying Abroad in China

From the figure below, we can see the number of Chinese studying abroad was 662,000 in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 8.9%. Among them, the government sent 30,200 people, companies sent 35,600 people, and 596,300 were at their own expense. By 2019, the number of Chinese students studying abroad has exceeded 700,000, and the market for studying abroad continues to expand.

The number and growth trend of Chinese students studying abroad from 2013 to 2019.
The number and growth trend of Chinese students studying abroad from 2013 to 2019.

According to data from the 2020 Open Doors Report in the U.S., from 2019 to 2020, a total of 372,532 Chinese students enrolled in U.S. undergraduate, postgraduate, non-degree, and OPT programs, an increase of 0.8% year-on-year, accounting for 34.6% of the total number of international students.

While based on the HESA data from the Bureau of Higher Education Statistics in the United Kingdom, the number of Mainland Chinese students registered for full-time taught masters in the UK in the 2016/2017 academic year, 2017/2018 academic year, and 2018/2019 academic year was 49,400, 57,225 and 65,400, accounting for the total number of students staying in the year 52.28%, 51.84%, and 53.54% of the total number of students in the UK.

Overall, there is a continuous growth trend.

Why is There an Increasing Demand for Chinese Students to Study Abroad?

1. High quality of overseas education resources

The universities with strong global educational strengths are mainly in the United States, Europe, and other places, so more people choose to study abroad to access better educational resources.

The universities with high QS ranking are mainly in the U.S., Europe, and other places.
The universities with high QS ranking are mainly in the U.S., Europe, and other places.

2. Great competition pressure of the domestic college entrance examination

The scale of Chinese college entrance examination candidates is expanding at an astounding pace. According to data, the number of candidates will reach 10.71 million in 2020, an increase of 400,000 from 2019, reaching a record high. Among them, Henan, Guangdong, and Sichuan Province rank among the top three in the number of college entrance examination applicants, but the undergraduate admission rate is below 40%.

3. Self-improvement needs

According to data from iiMedia Research, the main reason why Chinese students choose to study abroad is to expand their international horizons and connections and enhance their employment competitiveness. Thus, we believe more students would like to study abroad, considering their future development, employment opportunities, and the accumulation of contacts.

4. Increase in disposable income

With the continuous development of China’s social economy, people’s living standards and quality of life have gradually improved in China. In 2020, the Chinese economy slowed down due to the epidemic, but the disposable income of residents still maintains a positive growth.

China's growing middle class
China’s growing middle class

It is also worth mentioning that China’s middle class is gradually expanding. McKinsey’s 2020 China Consumer Survey Report shows that the number of middle-income people in China currently exceeds 300 million and is expected to exceed 500 million by 2025, with total disposable income reaching 13.3 trillion yuan. In 2019, the median assets of China’s new middle-class households were 4.83 million yuan, and net assets were 3.71 million yuan. Except for the median data, its average assets are 6.25 million yuan, and the average property price (one house) is 5.32 million yuan.

Recruit Chinese Students with Education Agents in China

To recruit Chinese students, it is a good to cooperate with competent education agents in China because most Chinese students would choose to complete their application with the help of these agents.

Since affected by the pandemic, Chinese students are more concerned about security issues abroad, and they need the rich information provided by study abroad agents. At the same time, in the case of limited enrollment places, students deferring their offers plus normal applicants will cause the 2021 autumn competition to become more intense.

In addition, many education agents in China have rich marketing methods, such as Internet marketing, blog marketing, forum marketing, campus promotion, etc. If you cooperate with them, they can help you attract many students through various online and offline marketing methods.

Therefore, if the school cooperates with these education agents, the possibility of recruiting Chinese students is likely to increase.

How to select an agency is important
How to select an agency is important

Cooperate with a Digital Marketing Institution

Despite the rich experience and great reputation of some education agents in China, getting a digital marketing plan running can be difficult without the correct support.

And this is especially true when marketing to Chinese students. Report showed that students might research about schools and universities years before reaching out to an education agent. Getting the right message across is crucial but with your website and YouTube content likely blocked, all your marketing is in the hands of your recruiting agents in China — and that can be risky.

Below are ways to recruit Chinese students effectively, but hard to execute. However, with a reliable digital marketing institution, things can be much easier.

7 Marketing Ways for Recruiting Chinese Students

To recruit Chinese students, marketing is vital. In China, there are many marketing methods to attract students. If schools are confused about how to find students in China, they can seek help from Chinese marketing agencies.

The following are several common marketing methods. Powerful marketing agencies in China usually have strong execution power, which can help schools effectively open the Chinese market.

(1) Build a Chinese Website

This is an effective way to recruit prospective Chinese students. Although most students applying to your schools meet your language requirements, parents may know little about your language and cannot look through your websites independently. Most Chinese parents would participate in the whole study abroad plan of their children, and if there is a Chinese website, it will be much more convenient and friendly for them to help make decisions and support their children.

The following is an example of related services:

● Responsible for hosting and updating the website in China, .cn domain name and two other domain names

● Create and translate a new website login page

● Perform text and image editing, including translation to an existing website login page

● Create and translate a new WeChat H5 website to support paid advertising campaigns

(2) Build a WeChat public account

As a social tool, WeChat has become a way of life for Chinese people.

WeChat official account is an online platform developed by WeChat. There are subscription and service accounts, which can effectively solve the problems of pre-sales and after-sales service. Interactivity and activity are also strong. Given that schools are like companies to some extent, the school can open an official WeChat public account to push school-related information, which may gain the attention of several potential Chinese international student groups.


In addition, schools can also build their WeChat service account into a super mobile official website. On the one hand, a considerable part of searches is after users become interested in mobile social platforms. On the other hand, it is significant for schools to create marketing opportunities through WeChat services.

(3) Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Using China’s largest search engine, Baidu, for marketing. 

Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation

It is important to let the natural search rank as high as possible and not pay for each click of potential customers. Most students and parents will search for the information they want in Baidu. The higher your school ranks in the search results, the more likely potential students will see it.  

If cooperating with a marketing agency, they can provide services like:

● Annual Baidu SEO and PPC management (campaign and bid optimisation, keyword development, ad creation)

● Annual report (monthly salary and natural performance report, performance analysis, optimisation suggestions)

● Annual customer management, status calls, and meetings

(4) Search engine bidding (SEM)

Different from other advertisements, they base this on the active interest of customers. Search engine end, short, flat, fast, and high ROI means.

Search engine bidding
Search engine bidding

(5) Conference marketing

Meeting sales is a common method in China’s education and training industry. Generally, the common form is to give lectures by famous teachers and hold on-site consultations. Schools can also conduct marketing in a face-to-face manner with teachers or admissions officers, consultants of study abroad agencies, and students.

(6) Douyin, Toutiao Marketing

Douyin is a popular short video app, and Toutiao is an engine product on data mining that recommends information to users and provides products that connect people and information. Both have a huge user base in China.

Jinri Toutiao (literally “Today’s Headlines”)
Jinri Toutiao (literally “Today’s Headlines”)

Through Douyin and Toutiao marketing, the school’s popularity can be effectively increased and target potential users. With proper marketing strategies on these apps, how to find students in China may no longer be a problem.

(7) Social platform marketing

With the social end as the core, make a proper strategy and choose a suitable social platform for marketing, such as Weibo (Chinese Twitter).

Successful Chinese Students Recruitment Cases

University of Derby

In 2016, the University of Derby was ranked 73 in British University Comprehensive Ranking by The Guardian. This ranking was not attractive enough for many Chinese students.

To catch Chinese students’ attention, the university created a Chinese website specifically for the parents of the students. The school also shot a promotional video, emphasising its own small class learning characteristics, showing employment projects in cooperation with internationally renowned companies such as Rolls-Royce and Toyota, attracting many Chinese students.

The University of Sydney

To brand the school and recruit Chinese students, The University of Sydney once chose to cooperate with two of our professional marketing agency partners.

In the cooperation, we promote the University of Sydney on different platforms, including Baidu Information Stream, interest reading platform, information platform, entertainment platform, and Weibo, which has the most popular coverage. And this enabled people to get information about the university anytime and anywhere.

Also, supported by the data of the cloud computing advertising platform, we gain the traffic scientifically and intelligently at different times through different media. According to the time and age group, people’s emotional cognition and the advertising effect can vary.

In the end, the final data is as follows:

Brand exposure: 79,842,271 times

Accurate population coverage: 5,973,524 people

Average click-through rate: 5.13%

Intended potential customers with contact information: 2980 groups

Private data model:

DMP data population of the University of Sydney: 2,983,741 people

Interactive crowd of Sydney University CDP: 934,738 people

The results achieved reached 200% of the customer’s expectations.


To recruit Chinese students, choosing to cooperate with reliable study abroad institutions can significantly improve the enrollment effect. Also, there are many marketing methods available for recruiting students, and it is vital to choose credible marketing agencies. Enlybee can provide you with excellent marketing solutions; please do not hesitate to contact our team.

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