Recruiting Chinese Students

Recruiting Chinese Students: Key Market Strategies

Last Updated on January 19, 2024

According to recent statistics, more than 700,000 Chinese students are pursuing international education globally. Despite the recent decline in enrollment caused by the pandemic, overseas student enrollment is quickly regaining momentum while the global condition improves.

And with the locals remaining faithful to the importance of education, international institutions hoping to start attracting Chinese students must develop strategies if they want to connect with their target audience.

In this article, we’ll explore the reasons for Chinese students studying abroad and how it’ll help overseas educational institutions understand the Chinese market.


“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” – Confucius.


Current State of the Education Market in China

It’s no secret that China is the world’s largest “study abroad” market, especially given its growing population. With these impressive statistics and consistent demand, education agents worldwide are relentlessly launching international student recruitment efforts to attract Chinese students.

One of the reasons why the education market remains a vital economic component in China is the pressure most Chinese parents and families put in every child’s shoulders. You may not know, but many Chinese students face the expectation of excelling and obtaining the highest grade. These beliefs mainly stem from the influence of Confucianism throughout the Chinese history. Through his words, society strongly believes that obtaining higher education is the gateway to a more promising future. To this day, Chinese families stand by these teachings by continuing to invest in their children’s education. Regardless if the Chinese student is from a poor or wealthy household, their grades don’t only affect one individual but also reflect on the whole family’s integrity.

Many educational institutions abroad understand this predicament, so they highlight high-quality learning environments in their ongoing Chinese student recruitment to gain their trust. On top of that, many Chinese families believe that sending their children to universities abroad will give them an advantage in the competitive job and business market.




Which country has the most Chinese international students?

While Chinese student enrollment efforts are not exclusive to one country, did you know that over 340,222 international students from China are studying in the United States? Meanwhile, Australia comes in second rank for the most number of Chinese students, with a count of 155,594.

On top of that, the United Kingdom is also one of the most recommended international education destinations worldwide. As of writing, the country has approximately 122,140 Chinese students studying in their institutions.

Other countries with many Chinese students enrolled in higher education institutions are Canada, Korea, Hongkong, Germany, and France.


Why do Chinese students choose to study abroad?

Most Chinese universities are open to the public, but the admissions process is a cut-throat battle. The Chinese government funds and supports these schools, so it’s only natural that only those with high scores on the national admission test (the “GaoKao”) can attend the institution.

Besides the pressure from Chinese families, prospective students pursue an education abroad to avoid the overbearing competition of “GaKao” tests. For the local job market, Chinese students who go to international universities possess in-depth global knowledge and excellent English skills.



Major reasons for Chinese students to study overseas in 2015 and 2021. Source: Statista


As you can see from the 2022 survey Statista conducted, most international students applying for overseas education want to expand their horizons and gain new experiences. Meanwhile, the chance to learn foreign languages and knowledge keep university students from China interested in studying abroad.

Although it’s not widely discussed, many Chinese families believe studying abroad provides a better educational environment than some Chinese institutions. Because of the more flexible learning methodologies implemented in overseas schools, international students from China can develop crucial interpersonal skills like leadership, coordination, and decision-making.

Lastly, higher education institutions often tap into the influence of Chinese parents on their children. Since filial Piety (孝)  is the core of China’s tradition and values, Chinese students will undoubtedly uphold their parents’ wish to send them abroad as a sign of obedience and respect.


Why Do Chinese Parents Want Their Child To Study Abroad?

Despite the undeniable influence of parental figures in the increase of Chinese student enrollment abroad, trust us when we say that this decision comes from a wise perspective. For a country that mainly speaks the Chinese language, overcoming language barriers with English skills is the main reason parents push their kids to enroll in Western universities.

You may not know, but current Chinese students have begun learning English from their formative years. Through this, parents hope it will spark a natural interest in the subject. When recruiting Chinese students, it’s one of the most attractive aspects overseas schools must present to gain the trust of these traditional parental figures. It explains why international students mostly go to English-speaking countries, like the US or UK.



Chinese students’ preferred destinations for studying overseas in 2015 and 2021. Source: Statista


Attracting Chinese Students: School Reputation is the Key

If you look at the best-ranking universities worldwide, most are from the United States and the United Kingdom. This proof of academic excellence is a leverage that can keep Chinese students interested in applying for studies abroad. The top end of the rankings for educational quality globally are Harvard University, Stanford University, MIT, and the University of Cambridge.



Source: ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities


International institutions looking to recruit Chinese students to their campuses must understand that the school’s reputation is the break-or-make factor for their venture to succeed. Before you recruit students, you must develop a positive image within the local and international communities. You can only do this by trying to reach students and parents on popular digital marketing platforms like Baidu.

Besides search engine optimization, your institution should explore building an online presence on Chinese social media platforms[1].


How to Promote International Schools in Mainland China

For your school to develop a positive reputation in China, you must improve your online visibility. To generate high-quality Chinese student leads, you should follow these best practices.


Localize your School’s Website

Chinese students (and parents) want to know everything about the school that they might be attending. It means you will need to build a Chinese website so that information about your school is accessible to them.

Transitioning or building your site means more than just simply translating it into Chinese. Your content will need to be equipped to cater to Chinese online habits. You can achieve this by considering website layout preferences, image preferences, and design choices. Localizing your site[2] will also improve its SEO ranking because most search engines in China favor a “.CN” domain name over foreign web pages. Through this, international applicants and other Chinese users can find your website easier when they look for international schools or exchange programs.

On top of tailoring your website to the Chinese market standards and appearing on top of search engine results, remember that you need reputable web hosting services in China and an ICP license.




Increasing Baidu Visibility to Attract Chinese Students

Baidu, often referred to as “China’s Google,” is the dominant search engine in the country, covering an impressive 75% market share. As the go-to platform for millions of Chinese internet users, this search engine application is pivotal in shaping any brand’s online visibility and reputation within the local market. Because of this, securing a prominent position in Baidu’s search results is paramount for educational institutions aiming to establish a strong brand image and recruit Chinese students.

With most users relying on Baidu to explore the web, ranking high on this search engine becomes essential to any school’s marketing strategy. When your school’s website appears on the first page of Baidu’s search results for relevant keywords and queries, you can expect it to generate organic traffic and capture the attention of potential students. The increased visibility can significantly impact the general perception of your school, making it more likely for users to click through to your website and explore the educational opportunities you offer.


Here are some ways you can optimize your Baidu ranking:

  • Keyword Research

You can improve your visibility in Baidu by optimizing your website with the right keywords. It’s crucial to conduct thorough keyword research to understand your target audience’s search behavior and identify the most relevant and high-impact keywords to incorporate into your website’s content.

Your recruitment efforts for potential Chinese students will work well if you integrate keyword research techniques into your Baidu advertisement[3] To do this, you must acquire valuable insights such as average daily search volume, daily mobile search volume, competition level, and estimated top page bid cost for different keywords through Baidu’s keyword planner.


  • Hosting your website inside China[4] 

Baidu and other search engines in China prefer websites with a “.CN” domain, indicating that the website is hosted locally. Hosting a local website will also enhance your website’s performance and search engine ranking on Baidu.

One must acquire an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license from the Chinese government to obtain this local domain. With this certification, your potential students can ensure you comply with Chinese regulations. On top of that, it also enhances website loading speed, providing a smoother browsing experience for your target audience.


Sup De Luxe Paris’ Chinese website, hosted in China and optimized for mobile


  • Optimize for Mobile

China is a mobile-first nation, with an overwhelming 95.1% of Chinese internet users accessing the web through mobile devices. So if you’re hoping to reach Chinese students, optimizing your school’s website to be mobile-friendly and responsive is crucial.

By designing a website that seamlessly adapts to different screen sizes and resolutions, you can cater to the needs of mobile users and provide them with an optimal browsing experience while recruiting Chinese students. Besides that, a mobile-optimized website enhances user engagement and improves Baidu search rankings, as the search engine prioritizes mobile-friendly websites in its results.


  • Baidu PPC (Pay Per Click)

Besides the strategies we included above, you can also utilize Baidu PPC (Pay Per Click) to display your school advertisements at the top of the app’s in-feed. This cost-effective Baidu Advertising approach will allow you to allocate your budget. Through this, you’ll only pay when a student prospect clicks on your ads.

Baidu PPC ads for UNSW Global


  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) vs. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When it comes to recruiting Chinese students, organically building your online presence through Baidu SEO is undoubtedly one of the most effective strategies you can use. You can optimize and create content so your school’s website can rank higher in this famous Chinese search engine. However, if you want to capture the attention of high-quality audiences, your school’s information must appear on Baidu’s first search results page. You can achieve this by using paid advertisement tools like Search Engine Marketing (SEM).


Growing the School’s Reputation

Always remember that convincing the older generation is one of the most effective ways to recruit Chinese students into your school, so releasing official press releases should give your more authenticity in their eyes.

You should also remember that these official publications will score you a good image with the local government, mainly because they tend to monitor these things. Because of the regulations surrounding these press releases[5], Chinese people are more confident reading reliable and verified information from your website.



Example of a PR article for our client SUP DE LUXE in Vogue China


For parents and guardians to consider your school an option for sending their children abroad, you should also develop a presence at education fairs and forums. Typically, Chinese students visit these forums for authentic opinions and are most likely to trust the news they consume here.


Increase Your School’s Presence on Chinese Social Media


Foreign schools on Chinese social media

Sup De Luxe Paris on Xiaohongshu, UNSW on Weibo, HEC Paris on WeChat


Believe it or not, social media plays a crucial role in the Chinese market. To increase the number of Chinese students enrolling in your school’s overseas program, you must develop a marketing strategy that will resonate with your target audience.

The Chinese social media ecosystem has grown massively despite the absence of Western social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Right now, the best way to recruit Chinese students is to be visible on WeChat, the country’s most visited platform with 1.3 billion users.


Utilizing WeChat Mini-Programs

WeChat revolutionized how businesses and organizations engaged users when they released their Mini Programs feature in 2017. Using this platform for your social media strategies will create a gateway for international students to access information about your school seamlessly.

This feature will foster community connections, promote events like open days, host content, and offer numerous other interactive activities to advertise your institution. By developing a WeChat Mini-Program for your school, you can provide a centralized hub where Chinese students and parents can easily access important information and resources.

Whether it’s about academic schedules, exam results, school policies, or event notifications, this one-stop shop will attract students to enroll in your program. It’ll create a sense of transparency and trust between the school and the community.


WeChat Official Accounts & the Power of WeChat CRM

By creating an Official Account in WeChat, your institution can better recruit Chinese students through features that allow you to engage with followers, share information, and tailor your communication to meet your target audience’s specific needs and interests.

The followers of your official account can receive brochures and promotional materials from your company directly within the WeChat app. They can also communicate directly with your team, enabling real-time interaction and the opportunity to promptly address any inquiries or concerns.


HEC Paris WeChat Official Account


If you want to expand your social media reach, you can leverage the power of a WeChat Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Through this, you can collect and store valuable user data. When followers willingly submit information such as gender, age, interests, and significance, they are added to your WeChat CRM database. This data serves as a foundation for targeted communication and personalized marketing efforts.

This strategy is effective for creating highly personalized and targeted marketing campaigns, maximizing the impact of your communication efforts. It enhances the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, strengthens your school’s reputation, and establishes it as a personalized and high-quality education provider.


Delve into China’s Education Market

Since 2008, Sekkei Digital Group has been helping overseas Schools and Universities to attract Chinese students, from Marketing consultancy to digital campaign planning and execution. As an integrated marketing agency, SDG can satisfy all your school’s marketing needs, including Strategy, Branding, Creative, Design, Web Development, Online Reputation Management, and more. Contact us if you are eager to take your business to new heights!

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