There are currently 5 Chinese students in Europe for every European studying in China.

Usually we think about the rise of the developing world in terms of economics, but it’s equally true for education.

According to an article by Ian Mundell on, the EU is working hard to encourage European students to study in China. The goal is partly to address a lopsided exchange ratio that sees 1 European student studying in China for every 5 Chinese studying in Europe.

22,779 Chinese students studied in Germany in 2010, for example. But only 4,873 Germans were studying in China. And only a handful were pursuing actual degrees.

Mundell quotes Niels Albers, head of the German Academic Exchange Service, who explained:

The majority (probably more than 90%) of these German students only stay in China for a few months, most of them focusing on Chinese language training. Even after some years of Chinese language training, Germans (and foreigners in general) find it difficult to follow Chinese lectures, let alone to write papers in Chinese.

Possible strategies for promoting European study in China will be discussed by a joint EU-China Education Council later this year. A hot topic will likely be direct partnerships between European and Chinese schools.

We feel this issue is going to become more acute as time passes, not only in relation to China but also India and other Asian countries. As more and more expats from these countries enter the global workforce, it will be increasingly important for westerners to develop a background in their languages and culture. When it comes to needing an international education, the proverbial shoe may soon be on the other foot.