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Fewer Chinese choosing to study abroad

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The number of Chinese students applying for overseas student visas is dropping, says an official with the British embassy to China.

"More and more Chinese students seem to be losing interest in overseas study, as the number of applicants to study in Britain, the United States, and Australia have all dropped to their historically lowest point," said the official, refusing to give his name.

One well-known intermediate company for overseas study services based in Beijing added that one fifth of the 50 local intermediate companies shut down recently due to lack of customers. Statistics from Golden Orient show that the number of Chinese studying overseas lowered to 100,000 last year from 120,000 in 2003.

Such a decline can be clearly seen in major destinations for Chinese students such as Britain and the United States. The Financial Times reported that Chinese students pursuing undergraduate study in Britain drastically dropped by 25.8 percent last year over the previous year. A US authorized investigation also found overseas students for graduate study lowered by 32 percent, in which Chinese students made up the largest proportion.

Chinese students have dreamed of going abroad ever since the late 1970s when China first adopted its opening-up policies. Sources with the Chinese Ministry of Education said from 1978 to 2002, more than 580,000 Chinese went overseas to study, of whom 150,000 have returned.

A report from the Higher Education Statistics Agency of Britain said from 2003 to 2004, a total of 47,740 students from the Chinese mainland studied in more than 100 British universities, accounting for nearly one sixth of the overseas students in Britain. Each year, overseas students from the European Union contribute 10.4 billion pounds to the British education sector and 1.73 billion pounds come from Chinese mainland students.

Officials with foreign embassies in China said the increase of Sino-foreign joint education programs and the improvement of Chinese higher education also made some Chinese stay home for advanced study. At present, there are around 80 education programs jointly held by China and the UK. The rapid increase of foreign investment in China has also inspired Chinese young people.

The number of self-funded Chinese students studying in British independent schools last year also dropped by 8 percent to 1,020, which, as the British Independent School Council commented, "has greatly influenced the industry."

Chinese students also told reporters that the complicated procedure for visa approval has also pushed many of her compatriots to lose patience with overseas study.