Welsh universities are guaranteeing degree places for promising Chinese students in a bid to secure a foothold in the world's most rapidly expanding higher education market.
They have joined forces to set up one-year foundation courses in three Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing, for secondary-school pupils hoping to gain a place at a Welsh higher education institution.
The courses aim to prepare Chinese students to enter a Welsh university by helping them to develop English language and study skills, as well as upgrading their subject knowledge. Successful students will be guaranteed progression to a degree course in Wales.
The initiative was put together by the Wales International Consortium, a new organisation representing the overseas interests of Welsh higher education institutions, and its partners in China, ELI Education and Golden Arrow Huamei.
The move follows calls from the Welsh Assembly for universities in Wales to seek a greater share of the overseas recruitment market. Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan travelled to Beijing last week to launch one of the courses.
During his visit, Mr Morgan was due to meet officials from the Chinese Ministry of Education, the principal and staff of Beijing 80 Middle School, where one of the foundation courses is being run, and the directors of ELI Education, a Sino-British company responsible for investment in the development of the programme.
James Wang, an ELI director, said: "Wales higher education is an ideal destination for Chinese students. They are able to benefit from affordable, quality education in Wales and enjoy a safe, friendly environment."
There are 1,734 full-time, full-fee paying Chinese students in Wales, which is estimated to represent about a quarter of all full-time, full-fee paying overseas students in the principality.
Virginia West, director of Wales International Consortium, said: "We are delighted to receive government support for this initiative. Higher education in Wales has an excellent international reputation. We are pleased that our commitment to international students is recognised by the governments in China and Wales."
Liu Jie Shan, one of the students enrolled on a foundation course in Guangzhou, said: "This is a great opportunity. I have dreamt of the chance to study in the UK and I have heard wonderful things about Wales. I am determined to work hard so that my family will be proud of me."