In China, education is one of the most important things in one’s life and in government’s work. More and more students go abroad for study and Switzerland is one of the emerging destinations.
Main trends on Chinese students studying abroad
1. Continuously increased number of Chinese students are going abroad for study.
The number of Chinese students for overseas study has increased steadily. According to data from China's Ministry of Education, 662,100 Chinese students went abroad in 2018, an 8.83% increase compared to the year before. Most of the students funded their studies by themselves, accounting for 90.06% of the total. Only 65,800 were sponsored by public funding. The number of overseas students returning home after graduation totaled 519,400 in 2019, up 8% from the previous year.
A total of 5.86 million Chinese studied abroad from 1978 to the end of 2018, according to the ministry. The Chinese overseas education market is the largest in the world with more Chinese students studying abroad than from any other country. In some of the emerging destinations for overseas studies, more and more Chinese students can be seen in their campuses.
2. The average age of Chinese students overseas is getting lower
Chinese students studying abroad increasingly belong to a younger age bracket. Traditionally, Chinese students leave China for graduate study; gradually, also undergraduate study and bachelor degree overseas have gotten popular. Now, the fastest growing number of students can be noted for high school or below study. Several facts lead to this trend:
- The disposable income of the parents is increasing.
- More and more attention has been attached to education on the national level.
- Many young parents have overseas study experience and they are very likely to send their children abroad for study, too.
- Some celebrities have sent their children to boarding schools overseas and this gives those schools and countries much exposure among Chinese parents and students. For example, College Alpin Beau Soleil in Switzerland and Swiss elite schools have been a hot topic among Chinese netizens because China’s pop queen Faye Wong has sent her daughter to study there.
3. Non-mainstream countries have much potentials for Chinese students
During recent years, more and more students have chosen to study in some of the European countries like Switzerland instead of studying in traditional destinations. This trend is expected to continue. As Chinese families discover the competence of non-mainstream countries, the options for the parents and students are becoming more varied, too. Recently, some countries have tightened the granting of visa for Chinese. As a result, some families are turning their eyes to other countries like Switzerland.
With above mentioned background, the Swiss Education Fair (SEF) China (hereafter abbreviated as “SEF”) was born in 2018. Its aim is to promote Swiss excellence in education and help Swiss educational institutions tap the potential of the Chinese market.
Swiss Education Fair – An appealing platform for Swiss schools to attract more prospective students
1. The only official platform
Among all the education fairs themed on Switzerland taking place throughout China, the SEF is the only one that is organized by a Swiss official representation in China. The fair is co-organized by Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) and the Swiss Business Hub (SBH) China, and supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and the Consulates General of Switzerland in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu.
2. Open to all Swiss private and public schools
The SEF is open to all Swiss private and public schools including boarding schools, hospitality schools, universities, business schools and so on.
The SEF China welcomed 12 and 13 Swiss educational institutions in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Among those institutions, there were major hotel management schools, renowned private schools and Swiss schools of higher education, represented by swissnex Shanghai. Many Chinese students and parents came to the fair and spoke directly with the representatives, alumni and delegates from the participating institutions. Some visitors even confirmed the application to the participating school onsite.
3. Strengthened digital marketing in addition to traditional marketing
For the past editions of SEF, on top of the traditional marketing methods like the publication of an official website, some modern digital tools have been used for the promotion before, during and after the event.
Among all the tools, WeChat is the most popular and fastest way to circulate the news. A number of WeChat public accounts within SBH local network were approached to repost and share the event information. The SEF participating schools, sponsors and media partners were encouraged to share the information through their own marketing channels too. Each of them was given a specific QR code for visitor registration so that tracking of visitor source was realized for future reference.
During the event, an online live album was available. The participating schools, sponsors and visitors were able to have access to the event photos immediately after scanning the QR code of live album. This new tool motivated all the participants to share SEF on their social media platforms.
Besides WeChat and the live album, LinkedIn and Weibo (a Chinese microblogging website) were also used to promote SEF.
This practice fits into the media landscape in China and produced positive results. For the upcoming SEF in 2020, the media plan will be further optimized in order to make the best use of digital marketing tools.
4. Continuous exploration of market potential in different cities
In 2018, the 1st SEF took place in Shanghai. In 2019, the 2nd SEF was expanded to Chengdu, which is a big market for overseas study in Western China. To better accommodate participating schools’ needs and cover major domestic markets regarding overseas study, the 3rd SEF will take place in Guangzhou on Saturday, 18th of April 2020, and in Beijing on Sunday, 19th of April 2020.
Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong Province. The whole province boasts a total of 131 universities and ranks the first in terms of number of international schools. The province has gathered 188 international schools, among which, 67 are located in Shenzhen and 57 in Guangzhou. As one of the earliest Chinese provinces opening up to the outside world, Guangdong Province has been always pioneering for overseas studies. Additionally, Guangdong is playing an important role in the China’s national development strategy “Belt and Road Initiative” and the development of the Greater Bay Area, it can be foreseen that Guangdong will be more open in exchange of education resources and enhancement of educational cooperation.
Beijing, as the capital of China, is known as the political center, as well as the center of culture and international exchange, hosting more than 120 universities and colleges. According to a study conducted by EIC Education, one of the major agencies in China to help Chinese students study abroad, among the top 10 universities with highest rate of students going abroad for further study, 7 of them are from Beijing.
The first tier cities and coastal cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai are leading the trend regarding overseas study. The more developed the cities are, the more and the younger students are going abroad for study.
5. Synergies in promoting Switzerland as a destination for both education and health tourism
To make the SEF an effective and attractive platform for all esteemed participating schools and to attract even more wealthy families, S-GE and SBH will partner with Switzerland Tourism (ST) during the 3rd SEF. ST will organize a Swiss Health Tourism Fair (SHTF) at the same time of the SEF.
By joint force with ST, especially for marketing and promotion, both SBH and ST will include each other’s event whenever they can, be it online or offline. However, S-GE and SBH will be fully dedicated to exclusively promote the SEF towards the same target groups as in 2018 and 2019 while ST will take lead for the SHTF.
With this innovative concept extension, it is expected that the SEF information will be spread even further, and more potential students and parents will be attracted to the SEF.