British universities are endeavoring to build stronger partnerships with their Chinese counterparts and to enhance the exchange of students and scholars, in order to satisfy rising student interest in each other's country, a senior UK education official said.
"It is an opportunity to learn from each other and try to build a strong relationship between our two countries," Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, was quoted by Monday's China Daily as saying.
The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), a central source for the collection and publication of higher education data in the UK, show that 47,035 students from China studied in the UK during the 2008-2009 academic year, a rise of 3.7 percent on the previous year.
Chinese students account for 18.72 percent of all non-EU international students in the UK's higher education institutions.
HESA's statistics also show that there has been a steady increase in the number of students from the mainland who have enrolled at universities in the UK over the past few years and that China is the top country outside the EU for sending students to study in the UK.
Zhang Yang, marketing manager with the Aoji Education Group, a Beijing-based student recruitment agency, said her company sent more than 3,000 Chinese students to study in the UK during the 2009-2010 academic year, 50 percent more than the previous year.
Zhang attributed the increase to a growing appreciation of the yuan as a currency and the improved student visa application system introduced in 2009.
"Under the new points-based system, the credentials of different educational institutions have been rated and are available to the public, which helps students make more informed decisions," Zhang said.
Lower financial requirements have also made overseas study more feasible for some applicants.
To secure a visa for a three-year undergraduate program, a Chinese student now only needs 20,000 yuan (3,010 U.S. dollars), instead of 60,000 yuan, Zhang said.
According to Smith, there were 3,500 British students on courses of study last year in China, which has become increasingly attractive as a location for studying abroad as a result of its rapidly growing economy and increased influence in the world.