25 Cheapest Universities in China for International Students

There’s nothing small or insignificant about China. Every aspect of this country is impressive. It has one of the most ancient civilizations, it is the largest exporter and most populous country in the world, and has a fast-growing economy with a high GDP. All of this is paired with great universities that have placed among the top 100 worldwide and affordable tuition fees, which make it a great destination for international students! In this article, we will be looking at cheap universities in China.

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How do I Study in China?

Preparing your application and actually applying to universities in Canada can seem very daunting. To help you, we’ve created a guide on How to Study in China for International Students. You should check it out if you are interested!


4 things you should know about Chinese universities

1. You’ll find many other international students!

Learning about China’s culture and history is a great advantage if you choose one of its universities. However, you’ll surely learn about many other countries since it is one of the most popular destinations for international students, along with the U.K. and the U.S.

In 2018, China received almost 500,000 students from other countries!

2. Learning Chinese is a plus but is not mandatory!

Since China has made significant efforts to increase the number of international students it hosts, the number of English-taught programs has multiplied. However, it could be a little hard to find the undergraduate program you’d like to pursue because many universities only have English-taught programs at the graduate and postgraduate levels.

When looking for an English-taught program, we recommend you to look for the opinions and experiences of other students. It has been reported that the English level of the faculty in some universities is not as high as students expected it to be.

Also, check which type of program you are choosing. Some programs are specifically made for international students, so Chinese students are not allowed to apply to those. This might not be an issue, but if you wanted to study with other Chinese citizens and get closer to the country’s culture, you might want to look for programs that accept local students.

3. Studying for less than USD 5,000 per academic year is possible!

Tuition fees of English-taught degrees for international students usually go from USD 2,500 to USD 10,000 because Chinese universities are affordable. And this includes the most prestigious institutions! Nevertheless, you could even study for less than USD 2,500 per year if you take the challenge of learning Chinese or if you already speak it. These programs are significantly cheaper.

4. If you still need financial aid, studying in China for free is a possibility.

Although working with a student visa is not allowed, there are many scholarships you can apply to. Besides scholarships offered by universities and private organizations, the government has a program that is available to international students.

The Chinese Government Scholarship fully covers your tuition, health insurance, living expenses, and accommodation. There are also the Local Government Scholarship, which will depend on the university you choose, and the Confucius Institute Scholarship, which is only for those who study Chinese. The last one could be useful if you plan to learn the language before starting your major.

Cheap Universities in China

25. Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU)

We start our list of cheapest universities in China for international students with Xi’an Jiaotong University, which offers a unique opportunity for international students. XJTLU came to lifeless than 20 years ago when the University of Liverpool (the U.K.) and Xi’an Jiaotong University (China) made an affiliation.

Studying at this joint university means that you’ll get a degree from the University of Liverpool and one from Xi’an Jiaotong University at a more affordable price. It also means that you’ll find a higher amount of English-taught programs.

It has programs in the areas of architecture, media and communication, science, business, technology, engineering, English, arts, and design. It receives over 13,000 students every year and offers the opportunity of studying in Great Britain for a semester or two.

24. Fudan University

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 7,000 and USD 10,000 Per Year

Fudan University is one of the most prestigious universities in China and the world, with 40th place in the QS World University Ranking. It has been granting degrees for over a century and its alumni include prominent figures in politics, science, technology, and humanities.

This affordable university in China has four campuses in the city of Shanghai. It is organized into five colleges with 17 schools that offer almost 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Degrees available in English are mostly master’s and doctorate degrees.

It hosts 45,000 students, of which 2,000 come from other countries. In case you’d like to spend a semester in a third country, Fudan University has cooperation programs with more than 200 universities overseas.

23. East China Normal University (ECNU)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 5,000 and USD 6,400 Per Year

East China Normal University (ECNU) started as a training school for teachers and professors and was created in 1951 after the merger of two higher education institutions. It has two campuses in Shanghai with multiple laboratories, research centers, and advanced studies institutes.

ECNU has 24 faculties and schools with programs in the areas of education, arts, sciences, health, engineering, economics, social sciences, humanities, and many more.

Only master’s and doctorate degree programs are fully English-taught. However, Chinese-taught undergraduate degrees’ admissions are also open to international students. These are cheaper and go from USD 3,000 to USD 4,000.

22. Tongji University

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 4,750 to USD 12,500 Per Year

Also located in Shanghai, Tongji University has 50,000 students that are educated at its 22 schools and colleges. These offer more than 300 undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degrees. It also has over 20 research institutes and laboratories and 11 provincial centers and open laboratories.

Although this cheap Chinese university for international students is best known for its programs in business, architecture, civil engineering, and transport engineering, there are degrees in other areas. These include humanities, mathematics, ocean, and earth science, medicine, among others.

The university has cooperation programs with other universities in China, Europe, America, and Australia.

21. Tsinghua University

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: From USD 4,300 to USD 28,150 Per Year

Tsinghua University is the most prestigious higher education institution in China, as it is ranked as the 16th best university in the world, according to the QS World University Ranking. This also makes it the best one in China. Many important people have obtained their degrees here, including Chinese presidents, politicians, scientists, and Nobel Laureates.

With more than 35,000 students, the university is divided into 24 schools. These offer almost 300 undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programs at the campus in Beijing. It also has 243 research institutes, centers, and laboratories.

20. Chongqing University (CQU)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 4,300 and USD 6,900 Per Year

Next on our list of affordable universities in China is Chongqing University, which hosts 50,000 students that have chosen one of its 400-degree programs. It is divided into four faculties of information science and technology, arts and sciences, built environment, and engineering.

CQU facilities include a publishing house, research laboratories, multi-media classrooms, and a city college of science and technology. It has exchange programs with 100 universities all over the world.

19. Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: From USD 4,300 to USD 5,600 Per Year

If you are interested in choosing a major that is related to languages, international relations, or politics, the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) is the perfect option! It opened its doors in 1941 and is the biggest university in this area. It is ranked among the top 1000 best universities in the QS World University Ranking.

There are bachelor’s degree programs in 64 different languages, but degree programs and short courses include over 80 languages. Besides degrees in languages, there are other undergraduate programs in translation and interpreting, diplomacy, journalism, international economics and trade, politics and governance, law, among others.

It has more than 8,000 students, and almost 1,000 of them are international students. Its campus is home to 21 schools and the national research center for foreign language education. This center is divided into 90 smaller research centers and institutes.

A very popular major at BFSU among international students is business administration since it has an international business school with English-taught programs.

18. Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,700 and USD 7,000 Per Year

Ranked as the 307th best university worldwide according to the QS World University Ranking, Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU) has around 32,000 students. This cheap university in China for international students is divided into 20 schools that have 400-degree programs. You can choose among different fields of study that include science, art, philosophy, education, engineering, management, economy, among others. Its programs in medicine are the most prestigious ones.

XJTU’s facilities include eight teaching hospitals, student residences, and multiple national research centers and laboratories.

17. Shandong University (SDU)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: From USD 3,650 to USD 6,350 Per Year

Shandong University (SDU) is one of the biggest universities in China with over 55,000 students and seven campuses. SDU came to life in 1901 after the merger of older higher education institutions. It is divided into 32 schools and two colleges, which are honor schools. These have 440-degree programs plus other professional degrees at the graduate level.

Its facilities are constantly being modernized. The latest campus was opened in 2016 and is still being developed. SDU has three general hospitals, over 30 research laboratories, student residences, and 12 teaching hospitals.

16. Peking University

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,650 and USD 5,650 Per Year

Peking University is one of the most renowned universities in China and its origins can be traced back to the 19th century. This affordable Chinese university is currently ranked as the 22nd best university in the 2020 QS World University Ranking. The university is well known for its contributions in the arts and literature fields, especially because it is one of the few liberal arts universities in the country.

Its 30 colleges offer more than 350-degree programs on its Beijing campus. Besides programs here, Peking University has cooperation programs with other prestigious universities around the world. It has exchange and joint degree programs with Stanford University, Cornell University, Yale University, Seoul National University, among others.

15. Dalian University of Technology (DUT)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,650 and USD 5,650 Per Year

The Dalian University of Technology (DUT) is one of the top Chinese higher education institutions that specialize in the STEM area. Established in 1949, DUT has won more than 1,000 awards because of its research projects and contributions to science.

It is divided into seven faculties of management and economics, mechanical engineering and energy, infrastructure engineering, humanities, and social sciences, etc. It also has 15 schools and one institute. These are located on two campuses.

14. Shenzhen University (SZU)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,650 and USD 5,650 Per Year

Established over 30 years ago, Shenzhen University (SZU) was created to address the economic and educational needs in the city of Shenzhen. It has 27 colleges with 162 undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees. In the case of research, it has 12 laboratories, centers, and institutes.

This cheap university in China has two campuses and a third one is under construction. These host 35,000 students of which 1,000 come from other countries.          

13. University of Science and Technology of China (USTC)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,650 and USD 5,000 Per Year

Located in the city of Hefei, the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) was founded in 1958. It is closely related to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. USTC is one of the leading universities in its field since is ranked as the 89th best university in the QS World University Ranking.

Although it focuses on science and engineering programs, the university recently expanded its offer and now grants degrees in the areas of management, social sciences, and humanities. It is divided into 13 schools where you’ll be able to choose between 250-degree programs.

12. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: From USD 3,500 to USD 7,050 Per Year

Ranked as the 60th best university in the 2020 QS World University Ranking, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) started its operations in the 19th century. This cheap university in China for international students has 12 affiliated hospitals and three research institutes. Its buildings are located throughout SJTU’s seven campuses.

SJTU received 40,000 students each year, who choose one of its 540-degree programs. Almost 3,000 of these students are foreigners.

11. Hunan University

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,400 and USD 4,250 Per Year

The origins of Hunan University can be traced back to the year 976 AD when it was an important academy. Nowadays, it is located in the city of Changsha and has over 35,000 students.

It has 23 colleges that grant more than 100 different degrees. It is especially known for its programs in engineering, chemistry, international trade, and industrial design. Additionally, it is affiliated with 120 universities in order to offer exchange programs in other countries.

10. Wuhan University

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,250 and USD 7,800 Per Year

By ranking 257th place in the QS World University Ranking, Wuhan University is the 7th best in China. Since its establishment in 1893, the university has been reorganized and merged with other institutions a couple of times.

Wuhan University is one of the cheapest universities in China and has 37 colleges and schools, two academic institutes, three hospitals, and 60,000 students! It has also been called one of the most beautiful Chinese universities. Its campus mixes traditional Chinese architecture with modern buildings. It has a lake, dozens of kilometers of green areas, and a Cherry blossom festival is held every year.

9. Nanjing University

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 3,250 and USD 5,350 Per Year

Since its foundation in 1902, Nanjing University has been reorganized multiple times to maintain its quality and up-to-date programs. It is ranked as the 120th best university in the QS World University Ranking and has over 25,000 students.

This university has been a pioneer in many areas. For example, it was the first one to install modern science labs in China, it founded the first modern research institute and has unique facilities, like the institute for gymnastics.

It has 25 schools, one college, and multiple academic and research institutes. Nanjing University is known for being the most selective in China. However, its doors are open for international students. In recent years, it has received anywhere from 700 students to 3600, depending on the academic year you check.

8. Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) is another great option for those interested in majors related to foreign languages, diplomacy, and international relations. It offers bachelor’s degree programs in 27 different languages. Besides these, SISU also has schools of law, international relations, and public affairs, business and management, education, interpretation, and translation, among others.

This cheap university in China has three campuses throughout Shanghai and offers exchange programs with over 200 universities around the world.

7. Nankai University

Nankai University has 14 colleges, 11 schools, and three academic institutes. Besides degree programs, it also offers vocational education and distance education to fit the needs of every student.

It has ranked 368th place in the QS World University Ranking and is one of the most prestigious institutions, with important scientists and Nobel laureates among its alumni and faculty.

6. Wuhan University of Technology (WUT)

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,815 and USD 6,350 Per Year

Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) was founded only 20 years ago after three higher education institutions were merged together. Although it is such a new university, it is already ranked among the top 1000 universities around the world.

WUT has 23 schools that offer almost 300-degree programs to more than 50,000 students. Although it focuses on STEM programs, it also grants degrees in arts, economy, law, foreign languages, and sociology. Also, it has distance and vocational education.

5. Tianjin University (TJU)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,815 and USD 5,500 Per Year

Tianjin University (TJU) is a great choice for those who’d like to pursue a major in engineering since it is the main focus of this university. Established in 1895, its research and scientific project have won hundreds of prizes.

Its 12 schools have almost 200-degree programs at three levels of studies. Besides these, it has 15 postdoctoral programs focused on research. TJU has more than 200 research laboratories, institutes, and centers. It is affiliated with many industries and companies to offer training and research projects.

4. Jilin University (JLU)

Jilin University (JLU) started as a college of administration in 1946. It changed and was merged with other universities several times until it became a comprehensive institution. Nowadays, it is best known for its programs in science.

JLU offers a wide variety of programs (more than 600!) in 47 colleges. And if this isn’t enough information for you to realize how big JLU is, this affordable Chinese university for international students has seven campuses that host over 75,000 students!

3. Zhejiang University (ZJU)

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,785 and USD 6,000 Per Year

Ranked as the 54th university in the QS World University Ranking and the 4th best in China, Zhejiang University (ZJU) is located in the city of Hangzhou and offers 440-degree programs.

ZJU has seven campuses with 37 colleges and schools, seven affiliated campuses, 18 affiliated research institutes, and over 50,000 students.

2. Sichuan University

  • Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,500 and USD 6,350 Per Year

Established after the merger of three universities in 1994, Sichuan University has three campuses with 30 colleges. It is located in Chengdu and is affiliated with over 50 research centers and laboratories.

Its facilities include a museum, four hospitals, and four libraries. There are 109 bachelor degrees available to its 70,000 students.

1. Lanzhou University

  • Estimated Tuition Fee: Between USD 2,250 and USD 5,000 Per Year

We end our list of cheap universities in China with Lanzhou University, which has four campuses in the city of Lanzhou. These receive over 25,000 students. It has 32 schools, an honors college, and an ethnology institute.

As it is a university focused on research, it has 35 research institutes, four prestigious laboratories, and 6 national research bases.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the China Scholarships Page!