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To Pay or Not to Pay: Funding Your Chinese Language Course

Have you ever dreamed of studying in China but weren’t sure where to start? When you searched online for options, did you feel frustrated and confused? This happens frequently with prospective students scouring the internet for information about Chinese schools. However, there are plenty of excellent options if you know where to look.

First of all, you can rest well knowing that tuition is affordable even at top universities like Fudan or Nanjing University, especially if you compare them to Western prices. If you’re still keen on a free education however, there are myriad options including scholarship programs offered by the Confucius Institute and the Chinese government, which are often much more accessible than you might think.  

You can also try teaching English at a university that offers Chinese language programs to foreigners. When you are not teaching classes, which are legally 16 or less hours of class per week, you can study with the other foreign students. Chinese universities are very eager to accept foreign students; the real difficulty is choosing which school to attend.

There are a few ways to get information about scholarships to Chinese universities. The first way is to get online and do some research. CSC in English is a good place to start from.

 If you are already enrolled in school, try asking your supervisors to help you, especially those with guanxi in China; that way you can skip the cost of hiring a company to do your application.

If you are currently living in China, applying for a scholarship is relatively easy. Once you find a university, you can directly submit the application to the school’s international office. It’s best to go in person. Application deadlines are usually before April each year and sometimes later for programs taught in English. Depending on the scholarships, you can apply for different lengths and courses of study; It’s even possible to apply for post-doctoral research, although it generally takes a few months for your application to be processed.

Another thing to remember is that if you are applying through the Chinese Scholarship Council website, you need to put down three choices for schools. The government will choose which school they wish you to study in, so if you have your heart set on one location, make sure you go to the school personally and make some connections.

Paying for Chinese university tuition by yourself

Some people choose to pay their own tuition for various reasons. Paying your own tuition gives you a sense of freedom in an education system that may be stricter than what you’re used to.

Self-funding students have more luxury to skip classes, choose courses, and can even avoid exams all together. Many Chinese teachers realize that many students studying for a year or less in China want to make use of their time by traveling or working, so they are relaxed about letting you take time off. However this will definitely vary from teacher to teacher so make sure you know what the school’s policy is before you start skipping class. Also, it is important to note, that while it doesn’t seem to present a barrier to many students who work part-time, it is illegal to work on a student visa.  

The number one employer of students is training schools. During the school year, students in large cities can find plenty of English teaching positions which make it easy to pay off your tuition while you study in China. Native-English speakers can expect a minimum wage of at least 100 RMB per hour in second tier cities; with the average university level language course costing around 25,000 RMB, that means you could potentially pay off your tuition after 250 hours of work. Moreover, in first tier cities like Shanghai or Beijing you can make even more.

Teaching English at a university that offers Chinese language classes

If you are keen to have a free apartment to yourself, stable wages, and free Chinese language classes, then consider teaching at a university. Most people don’t realize that universities actually include free Chinese classes in their work contracts. Universities particularly like having foreign teachers, because they are given extra money by the government; however, all that money is still very unlikely to make it into your salary.
If you are in China, take the opportunity to visit your ideal university. Whilst it has been noted that women and Americans tend to have the best chances at scholarships, there are opportunities for everyone. Take advantage of the fact that some scholarships are under-applied for and that in some cases, GPAs can be entirely overlooked. There is a lot of free money out there waiting for you in China, so why not go out and grab it?