Unless you’re a fortunate recipient of a Shanghai Sunrise grant (or a teacher with a contractual right to free school places), it can be hard to catch a break when it comes to school fees in Shanghai. Even public schools charge from the age of 15 and upwards, and many of the international giants offering scholarships at other campuses don’t offer any fee reduction options in Shanghai.
We’ve done the research, called admissions departments across the city, and compiled a list of scholarship and bursary opportunities for all ages. From pre-K to PhD, here’s a rundown of some of the best ways to cut the price of studying in Shanghai.
This was a struggle. We couldn’t find any actual scholarships for Shanghai kindergartens or early years centers. Even teachers at international schools will often be asked to at least contribute to the fees if their child attends an in-house kindergarten, and many scholarships at all-through schools are only available to older students.
Focusing on the positives, though: there are free sessions available at some kindergartens. Kidtown, for example, offers weekly “Mommy & Me” and cooking classes for free.
If you look into the fees, too, they’re often a lower-cost way to experience private or international school education. At many all-through schools (e.g. Shanghai Community International School, Britannica International School Shanghai, etc), fees are much lower at kindergarten than they are at other levels – often by 50-60%.
Generally, though, if you’re looking to kut kindergarten kosts, it might be best to start with our guide to more affordable schools in Shanghai.
For children in grades 1 to 12, there are many more opportunities available. This is increasing all the time, too – Shanghai Singapore International School, for example, has just recently introduced scholarship opportunities for students in grade 7 to 11, and there are additional opportunities for IBDP students in the upper grades.
These opportunities aren’t always advertised, though, so it’s worth calling your preferred school to ask what they offer. For example, there’s currently nothing explicit about scholarships on the Harrow website but, if you contact its admissions team, they’ll fill you in on what’s available. This being Harrow, each scholarship is named after a distinguished Old Harrovian: Churchill (for all-rounders), Byron (for English and the arts), Strutt (science) and Fane (music), for example. (There are also the Pasmore, Fisher and John Lyon scholarships, if you want to spend a fun five minutes guessing their foci.) Applicants must be new Harrow students for August 2020, and can request an application form via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wellington College offers means-tested grants to students in Year 1 and above, which cover varying proportions of the termly fees. There are also scholarships available in certain fields: IB, music, dance, drama and sport are listed on their website. Eligibility varies, and the application process involves an application form and either a personal statement or a sporting CV. If these are deemed worthy, you’ll be offered either an audition, trial or other live assessment. It’s also worth noting that applicants must meet all other Wellington entry criteria.
In keeping with the other UK-export private schools, Lucton School Shanghai offers a range of scholarship opportunities, covering anything from 20% to 100% of the annual tuition fees, which – at the time of Bing-ing – total 195,000rmb. The amount depends on which scholarship students apply for: the Pierrepont Scholarship, for “all-rounders”, covers the full tuition fee, whereas scholarships in art, music, sport or equestrian reduce the fee by 20%. Keen scholars can apply via the Lucton admissions office, and must complete an annual review before their scholarship can be renewed.
Western International School Shanghai (WISS) is another international school offering an array of decent opportunities, each with its own set of criteria. Earning an IB scholarship, for example, requires a minimum score of 6 or 7 on the IB scale. (7 is the highest you can get, and it’s fairly rare.) There are also packages for partial scholarships and financial hardship funding options – check the WISS website for details.
Although not all schools offer full scholarship packages, many will offer support with meeting tuition fees on a case-by-case basis: Shanghai Livingstone American School, for example, offers a range of scholarships and financial awards in fields from community service to “English speaking excellence”, but the school also supports families with flexible payment plans and smaller bursaries. There’s a little information about this on their website; current or prospective students should contact the school for more information about how to apply.
Other schools offer tuition discounts with different criteria, especially in the international sector. There’s a 7% discount for early fee payment at Shanghai Community International School, for example, sibling discounts at almost all schools (e.g. Britannica International School Shanghai, and lower fees for some schools’ “local” streams following the Chinese curriculum, such as Shanghai World Foreign Language Primary School.
Internally, many schools offer financial “awards” that are worth looking into. Nord Anglia International School Shanghai, for example, has a limited number of bursaries available for students at IB level who have shown exceptional talent or ability. If you want to know what’s on offer, contact the admissions, pastoral or academic team at the school in question.
Shanghai Universities and Colleges
Depending on who you speak to, this is either common knowledge or an unbelievable, well-kept secret: if your nationality is anything other than Chinese, you can apply to study for free at almost any Shanghai university or college. Packages awarded are either “Type A” full scholarships (covering tuition, expenses of up to 44,000rmb/year, and medical insurance) or “Type B” partial scholarships (covering tuition and medical insurance). If you’ve ever looked at tuition fees for international students, particularly in the UK and the US, you’ll know that this is a ridiculously good offer.
In order to apply, you need to meet certain criteria. For example, you must be a non-Chinese citizen in good health with outstanding academic performance. You also need to be fairly young: under 23 for the pre-college program, under 25 for undergraduate programs, under 35 for master's programs, and under 40 for PhD programs. In terms of qualifications, you’ll need proof that you’ve achieved the level below the one at which you want to study, and you might also need proof of your Chinese ability. Some colleges and universities will waive this, especially if your course is taught in English, but many expect HSK4-level Mandarin, especially if the course is taught in Chinese.
The annual application window is normally open from February to April, and you can apply through the Shanghai Municipal Government Scholarship (SGS) website.
Global Universities and Colleges
All international schools in Shanghai offer some form of university entry guidance, but there are some that have a greater focus on scholarship opportunities than others. At WISS, for example, one student every year is guaranteed a sports scholarship with a US university through FirstPoint USA. WISS also offers wider university scholarships, for which you don’t need any sporting prowess. Joy.
There are also, of course, international programs that fund overseas study. Application procedures tend to be rigorous and focus on high academic records. If you have an EU passport, Erasmus is a good starting point. If you have an excellent academic record, check out the Fulbright criteria. If you have neither of these or you just want more options, contact individual universities and colleges for details of their scholarships. There are plenty of opportunities out there for the keen xuesheng.