Chinese online fancy the UK, but food's a worry

September 24, 2009

Chinese students using online social networks to discuss studying abroad put the UK at the head of the pack - but worry about where to buy Chinese food when they get here.

Research carried out on behalf of the British Council, which is responsible for promoting British education abroad, suggests that the UK is the most talked-about country among prospective students in China, closely followed by the US and Australia.

But online chat about higher education tends to focus on practical issues, with students discussing loneliness, homesickness and the language barrier, as well as where to buy Chinese ingredients for their cooking.

The cost of studying in the UK, and the waiting time for visas, also featured in many of the online discussions analysed.

The Internet Word of Mouth study, carried out by Chinese consulting group CIC, looked at 500,000 discussions that took place on six social-networking sites last autumn.

One student said: "The bad weather in winter in the UK makes people depressed." To beat the blues, the student advised: "Take an active part in clubs or group activities, play cards, chat with others and develop personal interests."

Others told their peers that watching television, reading local newspapers and making friends with domestic students helped to address potential language barriers, particularly in areas with strong regional accents.

Jazreel Goh, the British Council's director of education marketing in China, said the UK was still very popular with Chinese students. She added that the favourable exchange rate had helped to make Britain a more affordable option.

"They are fascinated with the rich history, cultural heritage and lifestyle in the UK," she said, with its close proximity to mainland Europe being another selling point.

Despite the rise in the number of British universities offering degrees with local partners overseas, Ms Goh added that Chinese students "consider travelling to be an essential part of their study experience".

But the analysis also revealed concerns about the UK's traditional one-year masters degree.

"Some are worried that the courses will be too intense," Ms Goh added, leaving students with not enough time spent in the UK.

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