According to Ministry of Education, in 1978 there were 860 Chinese students who departed China for education abroad. 30 years later, a total of 1,211,700 Chinese students went overseas for higher education, 319,700 of which have returned to China. 657,200 are currently in various bachelor, master or PhD programs abroad.
In 2007 alone, 144,000 left China for education abroad. 8,853 of them were sponsored by the State.
Source: Xinhua, April 30, 2008