Mark Tanner
15 June 2022 0 Comments

Last week saw millions of Chinese kids take the gruelling Gaokao. The average 31 hours a week spent doing homework and extracurricular classes from the age of three, have largely been to prepare for the notorious 9-hour exam which determines the university they get into. Many consider the Gaokao scores to shape the trajectory of their lives.

To add to the pressure, the past two-and-a-half years of school leading up to the exam has been blighted by the shadow of Covid and sporadic isolations. Although Shanghai postponed its tests for a month, kids elsewhere were given no reprieve, with more than 800 kids taking the test from quarantine sites. As those who have lived in China will know, the whole nation takes it seriously, with banners, signs and people holding placards telling people to be silent around examination halls. Not a toot is to be heard.

Despite the challenges, this year sees a record of 11.93 million students taking their Gaokao – 1.15 million more than last year. This is positive news for foreign universities hoping to be considered for tertiary studies providing a larger pool of potential students. The extra million kids has also created even greater competition to get into China’s prestigious schools, which has historically been a driver for studying abroad.

The recent extreme lockdowns have seen more questioning China’s Covid approach and subsequently spiked migration enquiries, are also likely to see more considering foreign universities. The ongoing uncertainty around China’s Zero-Covid approach, and more kids and parents with cabin fever, will see more Chinese viewing overseas study positively than 6-months ago.

Many Chinese are still very cautious about the safety of travelling abroad and are unlikely to all bee-line it across the borders any time soon. Yet Chinese students will be trailblazing travel abroad before tourists. It is much easier to justify China’s minimum 14 days re-entry quarantine following a year of study than following a 5-10 day holiday.

Education institutions outside of China are likely to do well from more students studying abroad. It will also have a halo effect across many industries. Tourism will benefit from visiting friends and relatives, who are likely to be the first wave of long haul tourists from China. Consumer products also stand to benefit both through direct purchases from the students, but also positive exposure of the products and their country of origin on those students’ social networks. There’s a good chance that we’ll also see a bump in the daigou trade, which has historically raised awareness and sales of many foreign brands in China.

One of the largest beneficiaries of an increase in Chinese students abroad is the UK. So it is timely that China Skinny’s Andrew Atkinson will be speaking at CBBC’s flagship Consumer event of the year, China-Consumer 2022 at The British Library, London, as well as online. Andrew will be sharing thoughtful and valuable insights during his presentation on 28 June. Find more information and sign up here.

Click/tap here to see this week’s most important China market and marketing news.