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Be there one China or two Chinas, there is more than one Chinese higher education system. These systems are represented in world university rankings, such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities and the QS World University Rankings, as China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Together with a much smaller and new system in formation – Macau – these four Chinese higher education systems run in parallel with different degrees of interaction and/or competition among themselves.
Mobility among these independent Chinese systems rarely comes into picture in discussions about student flows into and out of China. However, in the 2012/13 academic year, with several record-high numbers reported in the student flows between the Chinese systems, it becomes clear that an increasing number of mobile Chinese students are going to study in the other Chinese systems. This can be seen from the following application, admission and enrolment figures reported for the 2012 academic year:
Most of the above numbers, circulating in the Chinese media, are not actual enrolment numbers. Students admitted to the programmes may not turn up for registrations. Nevertheless, the dynamics observed above indicate a growing awareness and interest in regional mobility within the Chinese-speaking world, despite the significant political and ideological differences found in the different systems.
Such regional mobility tendency may be seen as a threat to the position of traditional host countries for ‘Chinese’ students, such as the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), Australia or Canada. However, if we look, for example at the number of Hong Kong applicants for UK HEIs (6 041) and at the number of students who accepted the offers (3 616) this year, the threat is perhaps not imminent. The acceptance number shows a 26.3% increase from last year albeit the tuition fee hikes in the UK and the competing offers from China and Taiwan.