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Q Are foreign investors permitted to operate educational institutions in China?

A China’s Ministry of Education (MoE) doesn’t allow foreign educational suppliers to establish wholly-owned institutions targeting Chinese students, but they can obtain majority ownership of joint schools with Chinese counterparts. Two areas fall outside this scope: International schools, which can open a maximum of three campuses, and early-year education centres, which usually register as commercial companies.

Foreign involvement in China’s higher education sector is increasingly encouraged; particularly in regional cities, the Higher Education Rejuvenation Plan for Central and Western Regions plays a major role in national development. A university may establish a presence in China via a Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise or a Representative Office, which is limited to liaison and business development.

Chinese institutions are seeking partnerships with foreign universities that would include both joint degree programmes as well as the exchange of staff and students. Remember that the MoE will take the foreign university’s domestic ranking into account before they approve a joint programme. Universities can establish joint campuses in China, but this is far more complex and requires approval at the highest level of government.

There are growing opportunities within the vocational education field, which now falls within the ‘encouraged’ category of foreign investment. Priority sectors include automotive or healthcare, but success also depends on getting approval from either the Local Education Bureau or the Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security.

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