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Why Chinese Students Study as SOAS Report

SOAS is for someone who has a definite plan for his or her chosen course to study. It focuses on a few courses and does them exceptionally, compared to other campuses that provide everything and overwhelm the student. For many students, SOAS is a special place because of its uniqueness.

Not everyone would prefer to go there, but the few who do, truly like it because it matches their expectations and offers degree courses that they really like.


This study was conducted to understand why students from China would study at SOAS. It wanted to find out the particular issues that affect the decision to settle for SOAS instead of other universities. The research was qualitative and used two main methods.

The researcher observed selected participants and conducted interviews with a focused group of students as the university. The researcher felt that various reasons would arise when participants shared their responses as a group rather than as individuals.


The research used a non-participant observation method. It also relied on the interview of a focused group. Participants came from the University of SOAS. There were two focused groups in the study. Each focus group had eight students.

There was no particular distinction of undergraduate and postgraduate students within the focus groups. The first focus group only had students with a Chinese origin. The second focus group had a mixture of students from different nationalities and races.

During the interview, participants answered questions concerning the reason for choosing to study at SOAS. The study took fourteen days to collect data using interviews and observation.

The observation allowed the researcher to evaluate the rating of different reasons from non-verbal expressions. The findings of the research inform its discussion and conclusion.


The SOAS has a good reputation for a small institution. It offers an unparalleled curriculum in oriental studies. The university is internationally recognized in the fields that, it specializes in, which include Chinese. The unique blend of language studentship, a focus on the specific regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East makes SOAS an outstanding institution.1

SOAS has a student exchange program that assists in broadening the understanding of Chinese and other language studies. Staying in Asia or Africa for a year offers an opportunity for students to enjoy themselves while being immersed in the culture that they are studying.

Usually, students find out that the longer they interact with native speakers and their cultures, the more they become interested and the learning process feels more natural and easy.2 The intensive language training complements the exchange program and ensures that, students get value for their money.

The campus has a well-stocked library. The facility has significant collections on Asia, Middle East and Africa. Its vernacular language collection is the most salient in Britain. The library acquires more than three thousand monographs from the Chinese National Publishing Industry Trading Corporation annually.3

The huge collection is a vast attraction for both scholars and students coming from the People’s Republic of China, living in London. It serves their recreational or academic purposes. Students can readily get relevant literature on the Chinese subjects like economics and statistics, which extend their understanding of the region, its culture and people.

The material may serve as historical references or as guidelines from conducting oneself and doing businesses with the people of China. The university also offers a detailed for focus on Africa and the Middle East languages, culture and history. It prepares one to work professionally with the people from these regions, internationally.

London is the home of SOAS. As a cosmopolitan city, it provides a metropolitan community, which allows students of international languages, to practice without the need to leave the country.

The diversity of London includes Chinese facilities like restaurants and other business establishment. Students test their knowledge and are free to conduct additional inquiries by engaging in with the establishments and the people who frequent them.

For example, a student can take a meal at a Chinese restaurant and review its ambience relative to what he or she studies in class. The experience, of the process, makes the student appreciate Chinese more than, if he or she was to study at a city smaller than London.

The choice of a university mostly depends with the long-term aspirations of a student. This might extend beyond the academic qualifications. For a Chinese student, studying the language in London would provide him or her with the chance to experience uniquely globalization and Chinese as a foreign culture.4

Studying in their native China would be without the above benefits, and would not provide an expanded dimension, which is necessary for navigating the global professional landscape. The bigger and older universities like Cambridge rank higher than SOAS; however, they fail to match it on the scale of benefit, in modern languages.

Choosing to spend three years in the UK for a Chinese course at SOAS plus one year in China is more rewarding and increases the networking capacities, of an individual, compared to when the whole degree duration is spent in one campus.

Learning depends on the quality of the teacher and the willingness of the student. At SOAS, only the best teachers are assigned classes. In addition to good teachers, it is the university’s tradition, to provide the students with as many practices as possible.

Therefore, he or she has a firm cause of becoming proficient in the language being studied. SOAS requires one to be present physically when attending assessment interviews. Through the interview, it profiles accurately a student and eliminates future misunderstanding of one’s study needs.

SOAS has structured classes. Its teaching standards are very high, compared to other colleges offering Chinese courses. For the Chinese courses, the university uses native speakers of the language, so the student gets learns from the experience of the expert.

Other than direct tuition, student will also look at the service provided by the university. Some common services include a library, computer facilities and recreational amenities. Moreover, students will be more interested in extra activities bundled together with the teaching curriculum.

These include exchange programs and tours. For students who are concerned more with the monetary cost than the opportunity cost, an analysis of the things covered by their payment usually influences their decisions.

For example, students will break down the cost of tuition, accommodation and course material. Some will favour an all-inclusive cost while others are comfortable with a breakdown that allows them to forgo some provisions.


Getting a language related degree sets graduates apart from others. So far, SOAS provides the best Chinese and other oriental language degrees, and comes as the only choice for many new students. The reputation of the degree from SOAS makes even native speakers of a language study the same, as a degree.

Not only does the qualification increase the employability of the graduate, but it also upgrades their confidence in business and professional engagements. One could be Chinese but not speak fluent Chinese. Studying the language at SOAS would improve their speech.

The student gets the knowledge of Chinese as it applies to different study fields and at the same time maintains a working relationship, with the language at a level that remains suitable to him or her. Therefore, studying at SOAS is attractive because one gets to combine oriental-related subjects and their languages.

The education is all-rounded with no particular emphasis, on the language. For a student looking for general knowledge and has a different major to study in campus, the studies course at SOAS provides them with a non-demanding framework.

Learning occurs at the student’s pace, suitable for those who are already familiar with the specific language and are seeking to extend other dimensions of the language and culture into their professional lives.5

Facilities at SOAS

The library at SOAS is also the national facility for Oriental and Africa studies. It houses over 1.5 million items, and the number includes an all-encompassing database of electronic resources. All campuses have special facilities for students with disabilities.

Moreover, disabled students have a student’s handicap office that, gives them information, guidance and sustenance. The office is very handy for new applicants, who have no knowledge, of the disability catering features.

The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) is the biggest in Europe. It employs more than 40 full-time personnel who major in all disciplines of language scholarships.6

The centre conducts regular research seminars where external scholars present their works to the university’s community. It also has an annual lecture event where it invites international speakers, who hold prestigious qualifications.

The centre facilitates and develops interdisciplinary research in Europe. It also focuses on teaching and related activities that relate to China.7

Location of SOAS

The capital has a rich cultural and social life. Students have a wide choice of lifestyles to choose while living and studying at the institution. Its Russell Square campus provides students with access to the intellectual centre that shields them from the rapid interruptions of London.

Moreover, the constituent colleges are a few metres from the centre, which gives students a rich mix of campus diversification.


Instead of staying in China and then looking for a job outside the country, it is better to get a degree from an internationally prestigious university. The worldwide rating of SOAS in comparison to most native Chinese universities is greater.

On that ground, students of SOAS have a higher chance of passing interviews for global jobs compared to their counterparts who have a basic degree from a Chinese university. When looking at international job prospects, especially in Europe, the option of studying Chinese at SOAS seems appropriate for most students.

Moreover, most of the programs at SOAS already provide an annual exchange program, and a student will therefore gain the required reality interaction with the Chinese culture and its people in a native environment.

Other than comprehensive enrolment structures, students benefit from flexible course structures. One can choose a specific number of subjects or a complete package usually put as a degree.8

Different combinations allow students to pursue their education with relative ease. According to data collected in 2008 to 2009, SOAS has the best student to staff ratio. It was 11:1 and was expected to remain that way for a considerable time.

As a result, the audits done on teaching quality, at the university, have always shown positive outcomes. The university added an accolade to its prestigious status in 2009. The event was the award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, which lift the institution above its peers worldwide.

The university continually improves its course structures after reviewing them during different sessions. The periodic reviews usually affect the speaking, listening, reading and writing skills to create a balance as market needs and the society changes. Therefore, students are guaranteed to study the most relevant course combination at any given time.

Cost of Studying Chinese at SOAS

When choosing a language school, most students will look at the cost of their study and the benefits they expect to get. Those who place a high value on their education will likely overlook the monetary cost in tuition and other university fees.

For this group, the size of classes will matter. Chinese classes at SOAS are small. Another factor to look at is the number of hours that, students are taught.

The extensive Chinese courses at SOAS have many class hours, while others have few. However, class hours are fixed and cannot be altered to suit a student.

The university is known for major research initiatives. Within the United Kingdom, it boasts of a high ranking in Asian studies, which includes Chinese.

As the only institution focusing on the languages, cultures and societies of its target regions, the university is a vital explainer of the world’s complexities.

Its courses cover Africa, Asia and Middle East. More than 45 per cent of the undergraduates, at the university, take a language course. Therefore, they create a common pool for skill transfer of first language literacy to the second language.9

Other Attractions at SOAS

The modern society offers a competition for talents. The education quality, of an individual, affects their creativeness and their ability to enjoy economic and social rewards in their resident country. China continues to be integrated with the western culture and so does its education.10

The same is happening to many developing countries. By choosing to study at SOAS, the Chinese student avoids the troubles that affect education in China.

The rapid economic expansion of the countries and their examination-oriented education do not go well with language learning or other studies where the students are looking for quality and experience.

Therefore, the development of language talent in China is difficult compared to London, and SOAS, in particular. The environment and objectives are in line with those of the student.

The education system in China is scientific based. Students have to be surplus in their thinking and draw conclusions. The method of education makes graduates have a very narrow and deep knowledge that becomes a hindrance for them to react to, changing market needs.11

SOAS enjoys the liberal policies of Britain. It can break from the influences of religion and politics and promote its own concepts. Excellent learning institutions have a history of forming their particular culture, which shapes up their distinctive characteristics and concepts.

Learning language is like learning to swim or play. One has to jump into the water to swim. Likewise, one has to speak Chinese is he or she is learning the language. The education system at SOAS is oriental.

Teachers understand the importance of creating a suitable environment that, prompts students to speak more of the language that they are learning. This kind of teaching is also known as situational and immerses the student, into the situation. Most situations have the abundance of semi-natural or natural language customs.

The student population of SOAS is diverse and offers immediate integration, of the Chinese culture, with various traditions, of the world. The admission process evaluates all areas, of the student application, and this includes their personal statement.

Therefore, students do not have to rely solely on their academic references to be accepted at SOAS. For a new student, the university offers different study levels of the same course. One can decide to start with a basic level or go straight to an advanced level if they are qualified.

The university is very diverse. It has more than 5200 students coming from 130 countries scattered in all major continents. United Kingdom accounts for less than 40 per cent of all the students, at the university.

The number of graduate students as SOAS is almost equal to that of the undergraduate students. In terms of gender division, there are six males for every four females.

Most of the students, at the university, are young adults. The number might also be an attraction to students who are looking for a social life, in addition to the classroom education. In fact, the university receives only one postgraduate application for every six undergraduate applications.

The student union at the campus acts as a mechanism for the inclusions of everyone. It serves full-time and part-time students equally. The union is also responsible for sports and sporting facilities, in the university. The extra curricula engagement provides students with an all-round education.

The university has an internal job vacancy service, which offers part-time jobs. Furthermore, it has collaborated with external employers and offers internships to students, work experience and voluntary work positions as well as graduate training programs. Lastly, students benefit from a system, which alerts them whenever present jobs fit their qualifications.12


Many Chinese students study at SOAS because of the university’s reputation. They also choose it because they reside in the United Kingdom or Europe. The distance between their residence and China is very large; therefore, SOAS provides an alternative of obtaining the same or even better courses than their native country.

The college has a high staff to student ratio and complements teaching with a variety of activities that include one year of exchange programs for its language students.

The singular focus on three regions, of the world, makes the college both unique and imperative for the study of Africa, Asia and Middle East. Students, of Chinese origin, choose SOAS because of the quality of courses.

The curriculum is flexible to the students’ abilities but very rigorous once the person starts classes. It also has a rich social life and takes advantage of being at the centre of London.

Hence, studying as SOAS appears as very attractive to someone looking forward to experiencing the city life of the United Kingdom. When compared to China and other developing countries, the education system at SOAS is much oriental.

Students have a higher chance of developing their talents and meeting the ever-changing needs, of the job market. On the other hand, their counterparts in other parts, of the world rely of scientific methods that give them a deep insight into a narrow field rendering them ill equipped to adapt.


Gu, Q. & M. Schweisfurth, ‘Who adapts? Beyond cultural models of the Chinese learner’, Language Culture and Curriculum, vol. 19, no. 1, 2006. Web.

Haldane, P., ‘Visit to SOAS library’, EALRGA Newsletter, no. 14, 1988. Web.

Jiang, X., ‘The role of first language literacy and second language proficiency in second language reading comprehension’, The Reading Matrix, vol. 11, no. 2, 2011, pp. 11-17, retrieved Ebsco Host.

Kolb, H. & H. Egbert, Migrants and markets: Perspectives from economics and the other social science, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2008.

Liu, Y. & J. Wang, ‘The enlightenment of the development of new oriental school on Chinese educational system’, SINO-US English Teaching, vol. 7, no. 12, December 2010, pp. 11-17, retrieved EbscoHost.

SOAS, , 2012. Web.

SOAS, ‘Center of Chinese Studies’, Annual Review, 2010. Web.

SOAS, . Web.

The Complete University Guide, The School of Oriental and African Studies, 2012. Web.

The Specialist Schools and Academies, Why China matters: Inaugural student conference on China, 2009. Web.

Yao, L., The Chinese overseas students: An overview of the flows change, 2004. Web.


1. SOAS, About SOAS, 2012.

2. Q. Gu & M. Schweisfurth, ‘Who adapts? Beyond cultural models of the Chinese learner’, Language Culture and Curriculum, vol. 19, no. 1, 2006.

3. P. Haldane, ‘Visit to SOAS library’, EALRGA Newsletter, no. 14, 1988.

4. L. Yao, The Chinese overseas students: An overview of the flows change, 2004.

5. Ibid.

6. SOAS, ‘Center of Chinese Studies’, Annual Review, 2010.

7. Ibid.

8. SOAS, Diploma and certificate in modern Chinese – full-time.

9. X. Jiang, ‘The role of first language literacy and second language proficiency in second language reading comprehension’, The Reading Matrix, vol. 11, no. 2, 2011, pp. 11-17, EbscoHost.

10. Y. Liu & J. Wang, ‘The enlightenment of the development of new oriental school on Chinese educational system’, SINO-US English Teaching, vol. 7, no. 12, December 2010, pp. 11-17, EbscoHost.

11. H. Kolb & H. Egbert, Migrants and markets: Perspectives from economics and the other social science, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2008, pg. 148.

12. The Complete University Guide, The School of Oriental and African Studies, 2012.

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