East China Normal University Chinese Language Program Review


East China Normal University (abbreviated ECNU, known to locals as 华师大 huashida) may not stand out from the glamorous Shanghai pack and the language program may feel like an afterthought to international degree programs. You won’t find an intense focus on language here – community and fun is the name of the game. If you’re a socialite then ECNU may be for you.



Regular Language Program
Tuition fees: RMB 9,000/half year; RMB 18,000/year;
Application fees: RMB 400/person.

Intensive Language Program
Tuition fees: RMB 14,0000/half hear; RMB; 28,000/year
Application fees: RMB 400/person.

Insurance is compulsory and the ECNU arranged insurance is 400 RMB per semester, as is a Foreigner’s Health Check for students staying over 180 days, which is approximately 500 RMB. The overall fee is slightly cheaper than other universities in Shanghai, but not significantly.

Students are divided into three levels: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced. Each level is subdivided into classes based on students’ language capabilities. Students have 20 contact hours a week and classes are held from 8.30am to 11.45am with a 15 minute class break. Intensive program students have an extra class from 1.00pm to 3.30pm in the afternoon. The intensive program is appropriately named and may reduce the time students have to explore Shanghai and enjoy campus life. As a normal university, ECNU’s focus is to train teachers. This means your teachers may also be students currently studying at the university and as a result, teacher quality can vary greatly. Some teachers stick to what is good in theory over what is good in practice – especially if they have little experience in teaching foreign students.



ECNU has two campuses, one in the Putuo district of Shanghai and one in the Minhang district. Language program students study in Putuo at the Zhongshan Campus. A university bus runs direct between the two campuses and takes forty five minutes on an average day. The Zhongshan campus lies West of the heart of Shanghai and is thus well known as it sits next to the major thoroughfare Zhongshan Beilu. Students are close to the action without being isolated, unlike Tongji or Fudan. The French Concession, Nanjing Road and Xuhui are only 25 minutes away by metro – the nearest metro stations to the Zhongshan campus are Zhongshan Park (lines 2, 3 and 4) and and Jinshajiang Roard (lines 3, 4 and 13). Global Harbour, a truly enormous shopping centre, is within walking distance of campus. Students who take the metro will quickly acquaint themselves with Cloud 9 Mall at Zhongshan Park. Jinshajiang road to the North and Zaoyang road to the West are student favourites for cheap, filling food. The area around ECNU is like a small city of its own – you can find every possible convenience and comfort.



The Zhongshan Campus has four options for international students living on campus: The International Exchange Centre, International Student Dormitory 1, 2 and 12. The #1 student dorm is the most modern and has a convivial atmosphere, though #2 dorms have recently been renovated to a similar level of comfort. Two-person shared dorms start at 40 RMB per bed per night at Dorms 1, 2 and 12. Shared dorms have shared bathrooms and showers and not all toilets are ‘Western’ sit-down style. Single private rooms are pricey at 140 RMB per room per night at the International Exchange Centre, but have private bathrooms (with Western toilets).

Students can find cheap, private and shared accommodation in nearby Changfeng Villages to the West of ECNU, and Jingyangyuan and Nanyangyuan to the North. Rent in Shanghai will be your major expense; expect to spend anywhere between 1,500 to 3,000 a month for a private room in shared accommodation. Around ECNU anything above 3,000 RMB would be considered high for an international student. A pro-tip is to speak to the security guards (bao’an) who work outside the apartment compounds about available flats, rather than going through an agent. The guards know which rooms are good and may tell you the going market rate – also a good way to practice your Chinese. If you arrange accommodation off campus remember to register with the local police bureau and let the International Students Office know where you are – this may be a condition of your study visa.



ECNU does not have the same international brand recognition as other universities in Shanghai. The university is redressing the balance, though, crafting cross-college partnerships with New York University, Manchester University and LaTrobe University. Amongst Chinese students however, ECNU is known as one of China’s foremost normal universities (normal universities focus on training teachers and some research). Beyond its academic reputation, ECNU is well known, perhaps notorious. Chinese uni students have a saying “吃在同济、玩在复旦、住在交大、爱在华师大” which means “Eat at Tongji, Play at Fudan, Live at Jiaotong, Love at ECNU”. Visiting the university campus, it’s easy to tell where the romance lies – the striking Liwa river cuts through the campus, in Spring lotus flowers bloom and in Winter snow settles like icing sugar across pensive ponds. For these school grounds ECNU is crowned as a “花园学府” or ‘Garden University’. The gender ratio at ECNU is heavily skewed with an average 7 of every 10 local students being female, which can help explain local friends’ reactions when you tell them you’re an ECNU student.



If you’ve been following carefully you will have picked up that ECNU has a fun and social vibe, with student clubs and societies, sporting festivals and parties an integral part of ECNU student life. The International Students’ Union organises welcome events and social mixers with local students. Many international ECNU students stay for longer durations, taking on Masters Degrees or finding work in Shanghai. These students stay close with friends from their alma mater, which gives a greater sense of community after leaving ECNU.



Students applying for masters and doctorate programs may be eligible for a [Shanghai Municipal Government Scholarship]. Language students enrolled in long-term programs can apply for a ‘Scholarship for Excellent Students’ bursary of up to 8,000 RMB.


Asia Options Verdict

With lots of Shanghainese universities vying for your attention it’s hard to know the good from the bad. ECNU may not have the strongest language program in raw academic terms, however you may be charmed by ECNU’s welcoming community, good balance between social life and study, and gorgeous school grounds.

East China Normal University
8 Total Score
0 Users Score (0 votes)

Welcoming community
Frequent social events
Complete amenities
Cheaper than other programs


Teacher quality varies
Weak reputation
Social atmosphere may detract from language learning

Classes and Materials
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