Study in China: A Guide to Planning Your Expenses


After a three year pause due to the pandemic, China has opened its doors once more to international students in 2023, which means now is the perfect time to start planning for your studies in the country! 

In this guide, we go through some of the things you need to be thinking about when it comes to studying in China, from where to live and how to choose the right university to planning your expenses. 

Why Study in China?

Studying in China is one of the best ways for Western students to learn about a new language and way of life, while pursuing an invaluable education. The country has a population over 1.4 billion, a very diverse culture (56 races and ethnicities) and one of the world’s largest economies, which makes studying there an exciting, enriching life experience. 

It’s no wonder that China saw over 490,000 international students in 2018 (the last available figures before the pandemic), and demand is set to come back stronger in 2023.

The US dollar has risen against the Chinese yuan, from 6.38 in early 2022 to 6.89 in early 2023. While the British pound declined over the year against the yuan, it has begun to recover this year. With the potential to get more bang from your buck and the country opening up again, now is a good time to think about a study program in China.

Choosing Where to Study in China

According to Chinese Government figures, there were over 3,000 colleges and higher education institutions in the country by the end of 2021, serving more than 44 million students. 

Many of the country’s best and most prestigious universities are in Beijing, Shanghai and other coastal cities. The academic programs offered by private institutions are generally more practical than those from the public sector.

For higher education, China offers both degrees and certificate programs. Just like the educational system in the US and UK, China offers three levels of degrees: bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in China?

The amount it costs to study in China depends on a number of factors, such as the course you choose and whether you are opting for top-tier ranking Chinese university or somewhere more affordable. 

According to online student platform China Admissions, the cost of studying at universities in China ranges from around $2,000 (around £1,620) at some of the most affordable universities, up to as high as $16,500. The latter figure is the lowest tuition fee at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, a subsidiary of the University of Nottingham in the UK, which has a higher price due to its high reputation. 

You should therefore think very seriously about which city you want to study in, because the cost of studying and living varies widely among different places across the country.

china university dorm

Choosing Where to Live

After you’ve decided the city/town and the study program, the next question would be where to live. In general, there are four options you can choose to live during your stay for study:

  • Live in the dorm on campus
  • Find an apartment to live by yourself off campus
  • Find an apartment and share with your roommates off campus
  • Find a host family for homestay

Unsurprisingly, the average cost of living in tier one cities will be higher than other locations. For example, in Beijing, the most expensive city in China, the rent for a one bedroom apartment might be around $600 to $1,000 per month. 

Unless you truly want to live in tier one cities, don’t overlook lesser known cities where you may only need to spend $150 a month for a room on campus, especially when you are on a tight budget. 

Cost of Living in China

Unlike some Western countries (particularly the US), using a car for your day-to-day transportation can be quite expensive. If you live in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou, the best transportation vehicle is the subway; it’s easy, fast and you don’t have to worry about traffic. 

The bus is preferred in less well-known cities where subways have not been built yet. If you plan to take a trip to different cities during your weekend and holidays, we highly recommend China’s high-speed train. For example, if you are studying in Shanghai and plan to take a trip to Beijing (approximately 750 miles), the bullet train will help you cover this distance in approximately four and a half hours.

The cost of food varies widely depending on the kind of food you choose to eat but generally, Western food is more expensive than local Chinese food. Take breakfast for example; a bowl of noodles costs around eight yuan and a bowl of rice porridge costs around three yuan. On the other hand, a slice of bread or cake and yogurt/milk costs around 10 yuan in a bakery, and you’ll pay 30-40 yuan for a set breakfast. A cup of coffee costs around 40 yuan.

Send Money Abroad Safely with a Money Transfer Provider

Being a student in China will be an exciting, culturally enriching experience, but it comes at a price. Whether you are paying for accommodation, tuition fees, food, socialising or exploring the country, you need to be able to send money to China safely and access it whenever and where you need it.

Working with a money transfer provider can take away the stress involved with the costs of studying abroad in China, so that you can spend more time enjoying the experience. What’s more, choosing a good payment option will save you a lot of money over time, especially when you plan to stay longer in China.

Our currency specialists who can help you in every step from finding the cheapest and best payments option, to opening a bank account and paying your tuition on time. You can use our comparison tool to find the cheapest service provider, or use our guides to explore different currency specialists out there and find the right one for you.

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