A turning point for international graduate programs
The Postgraduate Admission test plays a similar role to Gaokao, a standardized test and prerequisite for students to enter the next level of education in mainland China, be it from high school to college or from undergraduate to postgraduate.
According to statistics from China's Ministry of Education, the number of candidates who took the postgraduate admission test, in 2019, reached a peak of 2.9 million. Compared with 2.38 million candidates in 2018, the Ministry measured a surge of 520,000, or 21.8% -- the largest increase in the past decade.
Among the class of the 2018 postgraduate admission test candidates, 1.31 million were first-time candidates (e.g. having just graduated from an undergraduate degree), an increase of 180,000 from last year. Non-traditional candidates (e.g. students retaking the test or non-recent graduates) accounted for nearly 45% of the total number of applicants, 1.07 million, respectfully, a measured increase of 190,000 over last year. In a 19-year projection, the percentage of returning candidates is expected to continue to increase, evidence that more young people are seeking to re-enter college. Additional demographic trends suggest that the majority of the candidates are, and will continue to be, female. In the past decade, women have occupied increasing percentages of post-graduate position increasing from 50.8% in 2009 to 60% in 2018.
Universities in China have their own Baosong system, an exemption from the admission test for students finishing their undergraduate at the university with excellent academic performance. The Baosong ratio of each university is on the rise - Zhejiang University has 54% Baosong ratio: 2,700 places are reserved for its undergraduates and 2,300 seats for all other candidates.
In 2019, the enrollment ratio is expected to be 4 to 1, which indicates roughly 80% of students will not earn a seat at any Chinese university. Responding to the greater demand for postgraduate education, the admissions test has increased its difficulty each year. The pressure and competition facing Chinese Masters students are historically intense and expected to grow in the coming few years.
Even after considering all the fact in this stressful and intense environment, it’s unsurprising there are still more young students entering into this battlefield. The predominant motivation for postgraduate candidates pertains to obtaining employment -- when surveyed 72% of respondents indicated becoming more competitive in the job market as a key reason for taking the Postgraduate Admissions Test. As China sees further interest in the postgraduate admissions tests, more pressure will be placed on students to improve their academic qualifications.
In fact, employment itself is a very complicated issue, and one of the most important factors is the expectation. In China, this expectation is often linked to academic qualifications. The higher the expectation, the higher the academic degree required, which also exacerbates the difficulties of Postgraduate Admission Test.
There is a continuous expansion of Chinese college graduates that has shown no signs of slowing down. On the basis of 8.2 million graduates in 2018, the total number of graduates will increase by 140,000 next year reaching 8.34 million -- a record high -- in addition to more than 500,000 students returning from studying their undergraduate abroad. The total number of graduates will reach 9 million, and they will become the main body of a prospective workforce. Therefore, we can be sure that the momentum of this trend will continue.
Under the pressure of this intense competition, more Chinese students have considered another option: studying abroad. The trend of studying postgraduate in the US shows mirrored growth to the trend of postgraduates in China. In 2012, applications to study in the US started to show negative growth, but since 2016 students abroad has seen rejuvenated growth.
Chinese students attend Graduate School in the United States for a variety of reasons; primarily because an overseas diploma is more valuable and respected than a Chinese one.
According to the 2017 statistics from Boss Zhipin, a fast-growing Chinese jobs site, in terms of pay wages, returnees are higher compensated than domestic graduates. The average salary of the returnees in 2017 is 17.2% higher, in their first year of employment than that of their domestic peers.
For Chinese young professionals, the decision to attend Graduate School abroad enhances their competitiveness and reduces employment pressure. Thus, it is an increasingly popular, highly-beneficial choice. Additionally, many young professionals want to delay entering the current job market in China since the economy is slowing down; we can expect this trend to continue for the next few years.