The China Opportunity
China's Education Sector - a Growing Market
The types of collaboration available in China’s sector are becoming more diverse as the market for education evolves. The UK's reputation for delivering education services is well-known in China, and the UK is therefore in a strong position to respond to this diversity. Key opportunities for UK education organisations exist in the areas of student recruitment, educational content, curriculum and IP exporting, programme development and delivery, partnership development, market entry and expansion operations, collaboration in research and innovation, and direct investment.
Demand for joint courses in specialist areas continues to grow in China: more high school graduates are applying to universities, and universities in turn are responding by increasing the number of programmes they offer and establishing international partnerships that can complement their existing courses.
The transition from the concept of "made in China" to one of "created in China" is also expected to increase the demand for the types of skills that the UK education sector is well-positioned to supply. This transition is built on a foundation of a Chinese economy that is entrepreneurial and innovation-led, in which research and development is valued, and which encourages links between universities and businesses.
CBBC’s education team covers the following sub-sectors, so as to best serve the demand for UK education in China:
UK universities attract large numbers of Chinese students to study bachelor’s degrees, master's degrees, and doctoral programmes in the UK Increasingly they are also delivering programmes in China through innovative collaboration with Chinese partners, joint-research programmes, and two-way staff and student exchanges, including those linked with industry.
Professional and Vocational Education and Training
China offers opportunities for UK companies engaged in the accreditation of professional qualifications and practical training. For further education institutions, this extends to the design of curriculums and services for vocational courses and teacher training, including:
- Early years education and school-age education - The UK continues to lead the way in the development of international early years and school-age education, and is already providing English language training and A-level courses to thousands of students in China.
- Edtech and education services - The UK is in a unique position for trade deals with China, providing services that target a Chinese audience. China is enhancing its strategy of developing education innovation, hence there are increasing opportunities for UK Edtech companies and education organisations.
The UK, therefore, has all of the necessary education capabilities to help develop a new generation of Chinese graduates and provide them with the type of entrepreneurial, creative, and innovative skills for which the UK is well-regarded in China.
The Challenges in China
The UK faces competition in the education sector from other countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany, particularly in first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai. However, broadly speaking, China favours UK education over that from many other countries, putting UK institutions at a distinct advantage.
As China's second-tier cities develop, new markets are emerging. UK universities are already seeing success in co-delivering specialist and niche programmes with partners in Xi’an, Chengdu, and Wuhan, as well as in other cities of a similar size with strong economies and reputable education institutions.
Chinese education institutions are highly conscious of UK university rankings, and tend to favour the overall ranking of a university over subject-specific rankings. The aspirations and growth rate of a Chinese educational institution must also be taken into account as it may clash with those of a UK institution in any potential agreement.
Furthermore, given that education regulations differ between countries, UK organisations need to be clear about what is feasible in a China-UK partnership. Building mutually beneficial relationships and keeping up-to-date with relevant information from within the sector can help universities make informed decisions about how to best follow up on a contract signed.
Education agreements with Chinese institutions must be commercially sustainable. A clear understanding of how each side will benefit, both academically and commercially, is critical to the long-term success of any such agreement.
Collaborations with China in the education sector are becoming more diverse due to a two-way exchange of knowledge, students, and specialists. Entrepreneurship and employability are also increasingly important in China, along with the commercialisation of research and development.
- Higher Education - The UK has long had significant expertise in direct recruitment and is now also a leader in transnational education, research and development, innovation, training, and other work involving industry and the Chinese government. The UK’s academic strength in cross-disciplinary teaching and research, alongside its capacity and expertise in innovation development, contribute to building more long-term and sustainable partnerships with Chinese institutions and other relevant stakeholders.
- Further Education - There are some potential opportunities in China that did not previously exist, especially around apprenticeships and working with industry on skills, and the Department for International Trade is also keen to engage in this market. Similarly, at a national level, skills are regularly on the agenda during China-UK government discussions. Opportunities also extend to the design of curriculums for vocational courses and teacher training.
- Schools - There is further potential to bring UK schools to China due to the strength of the curriculum and teacher training methods used in the UK.
- Early Years Education - Rising household incomes in China and its economic development have led to an increasing demand for high quality international early years education, and UK providers have responded to this by significantly expanding their operations in China.
- Edtech - Edtech companies entering China can form partnerships with Chinese suppliers and distributors by establishing joint ventures, or alternatively can set up independently.
- Training and Qualifications - Accreditation and practical training for professionals is another area in which UK companies and institutions succeed in China.
- English Language Training - English assessments, online training services, and study materials are all exported to China from the UK.