A report released on Friday by the Ministry of Education states that as of the end of 2015, more than 4 million Chinese students had studied or were studying overseas since opening to the world in 1978.
The report, which dealt mainly with employment statistics of returning students, highlighted the remarkable increase in the number of students heading abroad, growing annually at a rate of 19 percent over the past four decades.
Reform and opening up, known as Gaige Kaifang (改革开放) in Chinese, is the name given to the program of economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping and other reformists during the late seventies after Mao Zedong passed away.
At the time, students were encouraged to go abroad and study as a patriotic duty to help build up much needed technical skills in areas deemed critical to the national economy. Today those going abroad are more likely looking to improve their employment prospects and broaden their cultural horizons.
In 2015, over 520,000 Chinese students went abroad for study, while 409,100 returned. The fact that over 12 percent of all the students to go abroad since 1978 did so just last year illustrates the continuing exponential growth in the numbers of Chinese students studying abroad.
The report states that 80.7 percent of those going abroad since 1978 did so to obtain a master’s degree, 9.49 percent a PhD and 9.81 percent to study for a bachelor’s degree.
A survey carried out of recent returnees found that almost a half wanted to find employment in the coastal cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Students majoring in management, science and economics are in greatest demand in China, followed by those who majored in engineering, arts and laws.
The survey also found that only a small number of those returning wanted to engage in entrepreneurial activities, with just 3.3 percent looking to start their own business.