Art and design schools are seeing a large and growing interest from Chinese students looking to study abroad. From 2011 to 2016, the number of Chinese students enrolled in arts programs abroad tripled. New Oriental Vision Overseas reports that art majors now make up seven percent of all Chinese students studying abroad. As overseas institutions refine their efforts to meet this increasing demand, this article will give you a quick overview of the recruitment landscape for Chinese art students:
According to New Oriental, the US receives the largest share of undergraduate students, while the UK attracted the largest share of applicants for graduate programs. Other English-speaking countries also serve as popular destination for Chinese applicants with Canada and Australia receiving particular attention due to favorable immigration and post-graduation work opportunities. Students are also attracted to European and East Asian countries such as France, Austria, and Japan due to their unique artistic traditions and relative strengths across diverse fields like painting, music, and design.
Various countries have enacted programs aimed at attracting art students. Italy’s Turandot program facilitates the enrollment of Chinese students into Italian art institutions. The program allows participants study Italian language for a 10-month period before matriculating in an art degree course.
Studying art abroad can be a costly decision, so graduates and young professionals that study are generally tend to possess a level of financial cushioning to support themselves. In the past, art-related fields were considered risky in China because of a lack of job prospects. However, it is gradually becoming more accepted by ordinary families as parents begin to place more value in cultivating creativity and innovation - two aspects that the Chinese education system is often criticized for lacking.
Chinese art students applying to undergraduate art programs in China usually receive their exam results for art and design schools from January through March. If they fail to enter the domestic school of their choice, they may consider other channels including undergraduate programs abroad. As for Chinese art students applying to graduate programs, they usually take the preliminary entrance examination for art postgraduate courses in November and December and receive their results in February. Similarly, if they cannot secure a place at a domestic institution, they may try to find a postgraduate program abroad.
New Oriental further reports that major and ranking are the two main factors underlying Chinese art students’ decisions. This follows similar motivations in other fields of study.
As a whole, Chinese students care a great deal about a university’s reputation and ranking because of the weight they carry in the Chinese job market. At the same time, slots at top Chinese art institutions are limited, creating intense competition among applicants. For example, the Beijing Film Academy, one of the country's top universities for film, received nearly 25,000 applications in 2015. Of those, 498 were accepted, creating an acceptance rate of less than two percent.
According to World Education Services, most of the world’s top-50 art and design schools are located in the US and Europe, while only a few Chinese schools register on lists. By setting their sights abroad, Chinese applicants can access a wider range of well-reputed institutions.
Beyond rankings, institutions abroad offer unique opportunities to Chinese students. Chinese applicants are attracted by more holistic application procedures that include portfolios, professional experience, and passions rather than merely technical ability.
Further, Western art schools tend to be more student-focused, allowing independent curriculum design with a mix of technical and practical content. Art schools abroad are innovatively combining the arts with diverse fields of study such as industrial design, art psychotherapy, and music rehabilitation therapy. Above all, Western art education stresses creativity and uniqueness in contrast with Chinese art education which has traditionally focused on repetition and reproduction of artistic works.
Strategy – ideas to help institutions refine their recruitment strategy in China
There are several channels that institutions can utilize to contact Chinese students specifically interested in studying art abroad.
Studios, schools, alumni, and recruitment agencies located within China act as a bridge connecting Chinese art students to overseas institutions. By building fruitful partnerships with these organizations, overseas institutions can reach Chinese art students that may have an interest in studying abroad. For example, University of the Arts London works with four official representatives in China who are in charge of marketing and recruitment. The representative in Guangzhou is partnered with Chamberlain Educational Services Centre, an education agency in Guangzhou, to connect with Chinese applicants. The university also manages an active Chinese alumni network and sends representatives to attend exhibitions in China every year.
Short-term study tours abroad are seeing growing interest among Chinese students. These tours allow students to experience life abroad while introducing them to foreign works of art and educational institutions. Further, students participating in these short-term programs are likely preparing to apply for a long-term program abroad. Institutions can reach – or even host – these students at summer/winter camps, art study tours, exchange student programs and summer courses.
Most of all, institutions should emphasize the unique advantages offered by their programs. For example:
Advanced teaching resources – such as lectures given by successful artists and professional equipment, laboratories, and studios.
Programs with practical experience – such as guaranteed internships, involvement in exhibitions, or initiatives bridging art and local communities.
Professional opportunities – such as post-graduation work visa policies as international work experience is highly appreciated by Chinese employers.
Safety – Chinese students are increasingly concerned about safety abroad
Location – Students want to access resources (museums, studios, businesses) related to their artistic fields of study.