Chris Webster, former IOE PGCE student and current Programme Director of the Swire Chinese Language Centre in Oxford, was awarded a scholarship to a Chinese university in 2011. The IOE CI caught up with Chris recently to talk with him about his experiences of applying for and being awarded a scholarship in China. Chris gives some excellent advice and information about the process of applying for Chinese scholarships, which is very useful for any students considering applying for study and/or scholarships in China.
Hello Chris. Can you tell us about the Chinese scholarship you did?
After starting classes on a Chinese language course at the Zhejiang University of Technology (ZJUT) in Hangzhou in 2011 on my own savings, I found out from my classmates that they were studying for free on a scholarship. You can imagine how surprised I was when I heard that the scholarship covered tuition, accommodation and a monthly living stipend!
The scholarship they had earned was through their university back in their native countries via the China Scholarship Council (CSC) named the Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS). It wasn’t long until I was up in the International Students’ Office asking ZJUT staff how to apply. It was surprisingly relatively straightforward All I had to do was write a statement of intent and receive two recommendation letters, one from my previous university tutor at the University of York and another from my previous employer – an English training school called “Web International” in Hangzhou (very apt that it was called Web given my surname!).
Before I knew it, the application had been accepted and I was endorsed with studying for a three year masters degree in International Trade with a year of studying Chinese language prior to starting. I could not believe my luck and certainly considered it as 缘分 (fate) that this opportunity had been awarded to me. If this opportunity had not have come, I would have probably ended up returning to the UK after the language course in which I was paying for had ended. Who knows how I might have ended up!
After finishing the course and having passed the HSK Level 6, I felt that a three year masters degree was probably a little too much and that being immersed in a Chinese working environment would be more beneficial for the continued consolidation and improvement of my Chinese.
How did you work out the logistics of being awarded a Chinese scholarship?
Accommodation was provided by the university for free. I ended up having a room all to myself for the first term and for the following two terms my classmate who was from Hungary, who has ended up being one of my best friends, shared with me. We also played in a band together (he’s the shorter one in the picture below where we are pulling faces!).
The visa application was rather straightforward as I already had a working visa which was then transferred to a student visa. This was done on a return trip to the UK visiting family.
What advice do you have for any students who are thinking of applying for/have been offered a Chinese scholarship?
The Chinese Government Scholarship is the most generous scholarship available. The full application process can be accessed here: http://www.campuschina.org/content/details3_74779.html
There is a list of 289 universities which offer the scholarship, which are listed here: http://www.campuschina.org/universities/index.html
In sum, you will need to apply to the university directly in order to be awarded the scholarship. An example of how to apply is explained on the Beijing Language and Culture University website here: http://admission.blcu.edu.cn/en/2017/0906/c1147a318/page.htm
The number one tip for being successful is not to give up, you have to be self-motivated and persistent in order to have the patience to scour the websites in question in order to get the information you need. If you are unsure of the quality of the university you are applying to, then the best person to ask is your Chinese teacher. A ranking is provided however here and is a relatively good baseline to go from: http://www.shanghairanking.com/Chinese_Universities_Rankings/Overall-Ranking-2018.html
One thing to bear in mind with rankings though is that not all of the top universities are the best ones at teaching Chinese as a foreign language and your general expectations in this regard cannot be too high. It will be up to you at the end of the day to make the most of it.
What impact do you think being awarded and accepting a Chinese scholarship has had on you?
It basically changed my life. I probably would not be doing the job I am doing now without it, as I would never have been able to afford to pay for the costs involved having come from a low-income family. I am grateful to UCL IOE in particular for offering me the chance to undertake the PGCE Mandarin course, considering my bachelor’s degree was not in Chinese. I know I would not have been considered for the PGCE programme at all if I had not been afforded the opportunity to study Chinese so intensively as a result of the scholarship so that I could improve my language skills and secure the HSK 6 qualification.
Further to enhanced career prospects, I also had the time and space to pursue my interests while also practising Chinese. I played in a couple of bands, one of which where we played on live television, recorded an advert for the opening of the local subway and played at a major festival in Dali. Along the way, I have made some lifelong friends who are very dear to me. I feel truly blessed to have such wonderful memories that will last me for a lifetime and it is all thanks to the CSC for providing me with the support for them to take fold.