Shen Yang, deputy director general in the Ministry of Education’s Department of International Cooperation and Exchange, made the remarks at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Hong Kong yesterday.
Discussing outposts already set up in China by overseas institutions, Mr Shen said he was pleased with the campuses established by the universities of Liverpool and Nottingham.
He added that New York University was building a campus in Shanghai, where Nottingham has been invited to consider setting up a second China base.
“We want to welcome more high-calibre, world-class universities to come to China to participate in our development,” Mr Shen told the conference.
On student mobility, he said China was aiming to host 500,000 international students by 2020, up from the current level of 260,000. Degree-level courses are expected to be the key area of growth, he said.
Mr Shen acknowledged China’s established practice of sending many students abroad, but said that outward mobility was no longer the sole focus.
“The important thing is now, we want your students as well,” he said.
He made the comments during a discussion of some of the aims of the Chinese government’s National Outline for Medium- and Long-Term Educational Reform and Development 2010-20.
He said that at present, a “very large proportion” of foreign students are short-term visitors, typically enrolled on language courses.
“We hope to attract more degree students, more students for long-term study,” he added.
This would involve the country not only teaching more courses in English but also providing better services to the international students.
Mr Shen also highlighted the need for Chinese institutions to “ensure the quality of our provision so it can be embraced by the international students”.
And he indicated that it would be necessary to increase spending on scholarships by national and provincial governments, as well as by businesses.
Despite the emphasis on attracting international students, China’s huge demand for higher education will mean outward mobility continues, Mr Shen said. “China is a society that attaches so much importance to education.”
He added that by 2020, Chinese universities would be able to meet only about 40 per cent of domestic demand, and said he did not think the trend for many students to look overseas was going to stop.