Beijing has excellent universities, with a vast range of degree possibilities, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Unsurprisingly, some of them are very big indeed, with various campuses and tens of thousands of students. The Wudaokou area in Haidian District is synonymous with higher education, and institutions located there include Peking University (known as Beida), Tsinghua University, Beijing Language & Culture University and Renmin University. The first two are widely considered China’s best universities.

Of course, the vast majority of courses are conducted in Chinese, but in a city as outward-looking as Beijing it’s possible to find undergraduate and in particular postgraduate courses in English, particularly if you’re studying business. These universities also offer full- and part-time Chinese study courses at different levels; enrolling is a good way to kick start your Chinese study while getting to know one of the local campuses.

Getting in is actually considerably easier for foreigners than locals. Chinese high school students suffer through years of preparation for the gaokao, the university entrance exam, which is intensely competitive. Students who get into the best universities earn it through blood and sweat. Foreigners, however, simply have to fill out an application form and pass a standard health exam (for the student visa). Anyone doing a course through Chinese has to prove language proficiency through the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) exam, and most universities require level six out of 11. Foreign students pay higher tuition than their Chinese counterparts, but it’s still cheaper than in the US or Europe. Tuition ranges wildly from about RMB20,000-50,000 per semester, and student housing is cheaper than in most Western universities. Don’t expect housing or campuses to be as impressive as in the best of universities in the West, but they’re comfortable enough.

In the last decade, Beijing and Shanghai have both become increasingly popular destinations for people looking to do an MBA or EMBA in an international setting. Prestigious Western universities set up satellite campuses here to appeal to young business people interested in getting a head start in China and Asia, building international contacts, learning the language or simply taking an opportunity to live abroad in an exciting city while furthering their career.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese students have gone abroad to study at Western universities since China opened up; now the flow is starting to reverse. The Chinese government has invested heavily in its universities and encourages foreign students to enrol. In 2010, there were 265,000 foreign students enrolled in Chinese universities, and the government hopes that figure will reach 500,000 by 2020. Foreign students enrol independently as local residents, as exchange students from universities abroad or as travellers or residents taking a few language or professional growth classes.

Peking University

1 Yiheyuan Lu, Haidian
6275 1230

Tsinghua University

Chengfu Lu, Haidian
6278 4857

Beijing Language and Culture University

15 Xueyuan Lu, Haidian
8230 3951

Renmin University of China

59 Zhongguancun Dajie, Haidian
6251 1588

Beijing International MBA Program

Room 101, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University, Haidian
6275 4800

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