As China's marathon college entrance exams ends across the country, the 9-million-strong pool of hopeful candidates looks set to shrink as the number of Chinese migrating overseas grows and the population ages, analysts said on Monday.
Eventually, the higher education sector will be forced to compete for students, in stark contrast with today's feverish competition for a place at college, according to a recent report.
A total of 9.39 million students enrolled on China's national college entrance exam, or gaokao, this year, a slight rise
following a five-year decline in enrollment figures, the education portal eol.cn reported.
The trend is already becoming apparent in soaring admission rates. In China's central Henan province, admission rates have risen from around 42% to around 78% in the past five years alone. Nationwide, 76% of gaokao candidates are now able to find a university place.
An aging population means that the pool of youngsters will gradually shrink over the next few years, before changes in China's stringent family planning policies begin to take effect.
By the end of last year, some 3 million Chinese were studying in overseas higher education institutions, according to a report on the ministry of education's official website.
"The number of students going to study overseas continues to increase each year," the report said, adding that some 400,000 students began new courses of study overseas in 2013, 14,300 more than in 2012.
Yuan Gulai, a lawyer based in the eastern province of Zhejiang, said many families are already losing confidence in the ability of China's educational system to give their child a head start in life.
"More and more ordinary people, even those within the government, are losing confidence [in the system]," Yuan said. "Some people emigrate to give their kids some hope for the future." More ...