The number of international students in China has dramatically increased during the last decades. Going from less than 40,000 international students in the 1990s to over 450,000 in 2017, China has positioned itself within the top 5 study destinations in the world. This is why many universities are including more and more English-taught programs to attract international students. In order to enroll in one of those, IELTS is usually a mandatory requirement. However, here we’ll cover those universities in which there are alternatives to IELTS so you can save some time and money when applying.

China’s fast-growing economy, quality universities, and affordable tuition fees are just a couple of the reasons why students are choosing China over other destinations. Language is one of the things that usually make international students hesitate. Although all universities offer Chinese language programs a year or two before starting the chosen course, many people feel like language will still be an obstacle while studying.

In order to offer an alternative to those who are unwilling to take the challenge, many universities have included English-taught programs. To apply for one of these, proving that you have top-notch English language skills is mandatory. Most universities do it through IELTS, which can be very expensive, adding about $225 to your budget.

Fortunately, many universities accept other ways to prove your English skills. They aren’t as varied as in other countries, but there are a few that will save you some pennies.

How can I enroll in a Chinese university without taking IELTS?

Besides IELTS, most universities with English-taught programs accept the following alternatives:

  1. Providing any other English Proficiency Test certification. Most universities accept TOEFL, which is usually cheaper, but there are other equivalent certificates of English proficiency you can submit.
  2. Coming from an English speaking country. There are some universities that have a specific list of countries they accept in order to be exempted from IELTS, but the majority of them don’t have a specific list of citizenships.
  3. Submitting a degree from an English-taught program. They accept degrees from other Chinese universities, so it’s okay if your degree is not from an English speaking country.
  4. A few universities have their own tests and English language courses you can take in case you don’t have a certification or the necessary language skills. However, this is not very common, so be prepared.

When preparing your application, make sure to read the websites and guide carefully. Remember that there are degrees offered to international students in both English and/or Chinese. Some of them are mixed, so even if they say “English”, it may be partially taught in Chinese. Ensure to read the lists and specifications in order to choose an English-taught program.

Also, pay attention to the language requirements page. Chinese universities ask international students to also provide a Chinese proficiency certification if they are taking a Chinese-taught program. If you only see this kind of certification in the list, and not English ones, chances are that you chose a course that’s offered only in Chinese.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

 In which specific Chinese universities can I be exempted from IELTS?

1. Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University

We start the list with a university where all their programs are taught in English. With 30 undergraduate programs, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University offers two degrees to those who finish their studies: one from the University of Liverpool, and one from the Chinese Ministry of Education. This university offers many scholarships to international students and gives the opportunity to study a part of your course at the University of Liverpool.

English language requirements will depend on your degree level. You are exempted from English test certifications if you are from an English speaking country (they have a list of accepted countries) or if you’ve previously studied in English. In the case of Masters Degrees and Ph.D., the degrees you already have in English-taught programs have antiquity limitations. If they were conferred before 2016, you don’t qualify for the exemption.

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University also accepts TOEFL. They have a list of other English tests accepted, but they depend on the program you choose. Check the Admissions page to see the scores, list of citizenships exempted, and other certifications accepted.

2. Fudan University

Considered as the third best university in China, Fudan University has a wide variety of English-taught programs for graduate students. This includes 19 master’s degrees and eight doctorate degrees. The options are more limited for undergraduate students, but there are a few programs available, like medicine.

English language requirements at Fudan University mainly depend on the program you choose, as they have their own policies and tests scores. However, all students that come from English speaking countries are exempted from submitting test certifications.

Besides IETLS, they accept TOEFL (IBT), and the certification can be up to two years old. To learn more about scores required and specific language requirements needed, check the page of the Fudan’s International Students Office.

If you want to study in China without IELTS, Fudan University is an awesome choice!

3. Shandong University

Founded in 1901, Shandong University has over a century of educational experience and is considered a first-class institution in China. They have over 300 undergraduate and graduate programs, and many of them are offered in English. For example, economics, medical sciences, nursing, and electrical engineering are all taught in English.

Regarding English language requirements, students who are native English speakers are exempted from submitting an English certification. You are also exempted if you obtained your highest degree in a university or institution where English was the main language of instruction.

In case you don’t meet the previous criteria, they also accept TOEFL and other equivalent English proficiency certificates. To learn which programs are available in English and learn more about their language requirements, visit their Admissions page.

4. University of Nottingham Ningbo China

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China is administered by the University of Nottingham, in the UK. All of their programs are taught in English. Besides the undergraduate and graduate courses, they have a variety of research and training programs. Engineering, computer science, international business & communications are just some of the courses they offer.

Students that are native English speakers or that obtained their entry qualification in an English speaking institution are exempted from submitting an English proficiency certification. For those who don’t meet these criteria, they accept IELTS and PTE Academic certifications. Contact the university before applying as they may accept other certifications.

When enrolling in this university, you can start in the preliminary year (year one) or in the qualifying year (year two). The first case is for students that come from high school, and they have to take a Foundation course. The second case if for those that already studied a year in a recognized university and took relevant subjects for the degree they are pursuing. Scores required in English proficiency tests depend on which year you’ll start.

Also, scores required are higher if you are pursuing a linguistics, literature, or business degree. Check the International Students page of the university to learn more.


We hope that you could take advantage of this guide on how to study in China without IELTS. If you are interested in studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students!

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