China has recently become one of the premier destinations in the world for international students. There are several reasons for this, including the continued growth of the Chinese economy, government scholarships making education more affordable, as well as already low tuition fees. Before the pandemic, over half a million students from all across the world would travel to attend Chinese universities.

While China is an attractive place for international students, it can also be a surprisingly expensive place to study. The price of tuition can be complicated by insurance and application fees, on top of the costs that come from living in the country. In this article, we will give you some insight into the costs of studying and living in China as an international student.

Cost of Studying in China for International Students

There is quite a bit of variance in tuition fees between Chinese universities. The cost of studying in China is based on location, reputation, and several other factors. Universities located on the coast with a large number of international students usually cost more than smaller, more rural universities. As well as this, masters and PhDs cost more than bachelor’s degrees.

Some examples of tuition fees for international students in China include:

  • Nanjing University: 5,200 – 6,050 RMB/820 – 950 USD per year for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Shenzhen University: Between 26,000 – 40,000 RMB/4,090 – 6,300 USD per year for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Zhejiang University: Between 20,000 – 200,000 RMB/3,150 – 31,500 USD per year for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Peking University: Between 26,000 – 30,000 RMB/4,090 – 4,720 USD per year for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Wuhan University: Between 20,000 – 30,000 RMB/3,150 – 4,720 USD per year for a bachelor’s degree.

Even so, tuition fees are not the only costs that international students should keep in mind. The cost of living in China varies greatly depending on where in the country you decide to live.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

Cost of Living in China for International Students

1. Cost of Living in Shanghai

Shanghai, the largest and most populous city in China, is the most expensive city to live and study in. Even with the high cost of living in this city in China, Shanghai is one of the most exciting cities to explore, with several interesting sites to see.

  • Housing: Rent takes up a significant portion of students’ budgets regardless of where they study. This fact is the same in Shanghai. While prices do vary, and you might be able to find a good deal, the average apartment will cost between 4,400 and 7,900 RMB per month. In dollars, this is between 690 and 1,240 USD per month.
  • Transportation: China has an extensive public transport network that operates at affordable prices. Shanghai is filled with buses and trains that cost between 1-4 RMB – less than a dollar. Taxies are also relatively cheap at only around 2.8 RMB per kilometer, though finding one is difficult in a busy city like Shanghai.

2. Cost of Living in Nanjing

Nanjing is another of China’s megacities, yet it is much more affordable when compared to Shanghai.

  • Housing: Rent in Nanjing can vary between lows of 2,700 RMB and up to 5,300 RMB for more expensive accommodation. Location is the most important factor when it comes to price – apartments closer to the city center cost more than those further away.
  • Transportation: Bus fares in Nanjing vary between 1 and 2 RMB. However, cheaper buses usually do not have air conditioning, which can be a downside in a warm country like China.
  • Food: Food is relatively inexpensive in Nanjing, with meals going for as low as 25 RMB and as high as 300 RMB. Necessities such as bread, eggs, apples, and chicken are also affordable.

3. Cost of Living in Hangzhou

Historically known as the “Capital of Tea”, Hangzhou has always been one of the most important economic hubs in China.

  • Housing: Rent in Hangzhou is much cheaper when compared to cities such as Nanjing and Shanghai, with the average rent around 2,600 RMB.
  • Utilities: The cost of utilities in Hangzhou is relatively low. Gas, electricity, and water cost between 290 RMB (45 USD) and 630 RMB (99 USD).
  • Transportation: Hangzhou is home to an excellent metro network. A ticket for the subway costs between 2 and 8 RMB. Buses are also cheap, costing as little as 1 RMB.

4. Cost of Living in Beijing

The capital city of China has, historically, been one of the most important cities in the world. Today, Beijing is one of the most popular destinations for students interested in studying in China.

  • Housing: Beijing is home to some of the most expensive apartments in the country. Rent can be as high as 12,000 RMB – nearly 1,900 USD per month. Even relatively cheap apartments can cost over 800 USD per month.
  • Leisure: Entertainment and leisure in Beijing are, on the other hand, reasonably affordable. 2 tickets to the cinema cost around 17 USD, while beer can go for less than 5 USD.
  • Utilities: Electricity, gas, heating, and water are also quite cheap in Beijing, with utilities for a small apartment costing only 45 USD per month. Even large apartments rarely cost more than 60 USD to heat.

5. Cost of Living in Shenzhen

Home to over 12 million people, Shenzhen is another of China’s megacities. The gateway to Hong Kong, Shenzhen is one of the most popular tourist destinations in China.

  • Transporation: A monthly public transport ticket costs as little as 25 dollars (164 MRB). Gas for a privately owned car costs a little over 1 USD, though this can change quickly.
  • Housing: Rent in Shenzhen can start as low as 3,300 RMB up to highs of over 5,700 RMB. In USD, that is a range between 520 USD and 900 USD.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider before you choose to study in China. While there are many opportunities in China, there are also several challenges. We hope that this article will help you make an informed decision when moving to China.


We hope this article on the cost of studying and living in China was informative and helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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