China’s international education industry has grown rapidly since the late 1990s. Chinese investment firm Tiantiantou estimates that the total market value for the Chinese international education industry is 250 billion RMB . With this growth, the industry has expanded into new service areas assisting students in many aspects of their journeys abroad. These services can be split into two categories according to when they are utilized by students: pre-enrollment services and post-enrollment services.
The pre-enrollment market encompasses services used before a student enrolls in education programs abroad -- such as language training and admission consulting and accounts – accounting for 15 percent of the total market size. This space has become incredibly competitive within China. Several large multinational companies -- New Oriental (新东方教育集团), Shinyway (新通外语), and EF (英孚教育) -- have emerged as market leaders by offering multiple complementary services. Students may start with language classes at a young age and then branch into the companies’ other services as they move through the process of studying abroad.
The post-enrollment market includes services used once a student accepts admission. This area has seen dramatic expansion. Tiantiantou estimates that these services comprise the vast majority – 85 percent – of the overall study abroad industry. New services and business continue to develop aimed at making international education easier for students, parents, and institutions alike.
Examples of post-enrollment services that have developed in recent years:
Driven by financial technology, or fintech, these services mainly concentrate as a form of international money transfer services for paying tuition or making purchases abroad. These services often act as third-parties between individual users and overseas banks or institutions to help facilitate the transfer of money. Fees, commissions, and exchange rate losses are generally much lower than traditional money transfers, sometimes less than half the cost of using a bank. Moreover, transactions can be managed via smartphone, and transfers takes a matter of minutes rather than days. A leading example of these services is Easy Transfer (易思汇).
A growing number of Chinese families are sending their children to schools abroad at a younger age. For example, in the United States, the number of Chinese international students enrolled in primary and secondary schools during the 2015-2016 school year is 62 times higher than it was in 2003-2004. Most countries require a domestic guardian for international students under 18 years of age. Further, young children lack the abilities necessary to live independently and need help with both academic and non-academic affairs, such as medical issues, cultural adaptation, and language barriers. Thus, families arrange homestays to serve as a child’s guardian and caretaker in a foreign country.
Several companies have formed to make it easier for families to find reliable homestays and manage communication while their children are abroad. Warden Canada, for example, is a company registered in Canada that provides all-in-one guardian and homestay services. A typical service package which costs approximately $7,300 USD includes the following services:
Among the accommodation options available to international students, the largest group – 42 percent – choose to rent or buy private property not affiliated with their school. Meanwhile, 33 percent choose off-campus school housing, 20 percent choose on-campus dormitories, and only 5 percent choose homestays. (Though these figures vary greatly for different ages and levels of education.)
A major growth area has been accommodation providers that offer student-focused housing. 6apt, for example, is an online platform that features rental information from landlords for international students. Further, the company runs its own chain of apartment buildings across four countries: the UK, France, the US, and Australia. Other examples include Uhomes (异乡好客) which provides property and financial management services for Chinese families of international students.
Another growing area has been online communities for parents of students studying abroad. As their children travel (or will soon travel) abroad, parents are eager to research destinations, receive updates, and communicate with other parents who share similar values and concerns. Examples include New Parent (新新家长) and Daily News for North America International Students (北美留学生日报) which serve as information hubs where Chinese parents share, discuss, and learn.