Learn to Speak Uyghur – in Xinjiang

September 1 | 35 Comments

**This article has been updated as of August 2018. For more info on Uyghur study materials, please see this comprehensive guide. Getting a visa to live in Xinjiang has become extremely difficult, if not impossible. I have kept all the information below for reference, but I warn you to expect very little help or response from any of these institutions.**

If you have the chance to study Uyghur while living in Xinjiang…consider yourself lucky! There is no better way to pick up a language than through immersion, so take advantage of your time in the province and study in Xinjiang.

But…what are the best places to study Uyghur in Xinjiang? Based on my experience of being a student here as well as the input from quite a few other travelers and students I know, there are some great opportunities to learn Mandarin, Uyghur, Kazakh and many other languages.

Before we dive into the various programs, it’s good to understand a few things to start:

  1. Your best option is Urumqi: I know quite a few people who want to study in Kashgar, Turpan or Yili, and that used to be possible, but ever since 2009 it’s been extremely difficult if not impossible according to some. Even if you could, the quality of teaching is leaps and bounds better in Urumqi. Update: It’s still impossible to study anywhere other than Urumqi, and even Urumqi is becoming very difficult.
  2. It’s easier to tutor in Uyghur: Some people are dead-set on studying Uyghur at a university, but I’ve personally found that in many cases it can be better to enroll in the Mandarin programs here and do Uyghur tutoring on the side. Not only do you avoid the government scrutiny that comes with studying Uyghur (if it’s even possible), you also have more choices of programs (and therefore places to live).
  3. Teaching is another option: There are some schools in town that cater to Uyghur students and they have hired foreigners in the past. The pay isn’t as good but you’ll be immersed in Uyghur culture. It’s not ideal, but it’s an option to consider if you’re short on money or if the schools below don’t respond. For more information, read this article on teaching English in Xinjiang.

So with that out of the way, the following is a list of a few schools that you can contact if you’re interested in studying in Xinjiang:

Xinjiang University (新疆大学)

Study in Xinjiang University in UrumqiXinjiang University is one of Urumqi’s largest universities that offers multiple undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. programs. One of the advantages of studying here is its location in the heart of southern Urumqi – the Uyghur part of town.

A relatively new rule on the campus makes dorm living mandatory, but due to overcrowding it’s possible to live in local neighborhoods. Campus dorms should cost around US$100 per month while off-campus housing varies based on location and quality of living.

Tuition as of 2018 is 13,000 RMB/year for language students. They also offer a Master’s Program (20,000 RMB/yr) and a Ph.D. program (24,000 RMB/yr). Dorm fees are 350 RMB per month.

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Xinjiang Normal University (师范大学)

Study in Xinjiang Normal University in UrumqiAs opposed to Xinjiang University, which is located in southern Urumqi, Xinjiang Normal University can be found in the wealthier northern part of town. You might feel safer around here and enjoy the familiar western brands, but you’ll miss out on the Uyghur immersion. This part of town has, in general, a higher standard of living.

XNU offers a beautiful campus (although they built a newer campus for the Chinese students outside of town) and plenty of students to interact with. Like most universities listed here you’ll run into foreign students from Korea, Japan, and every single Central Asian country.

Tuition cost as of 2018 is 12,000 RMB for the year, 2,600 RMB for a 4-week summer school program and 5,200 RMB for an 8-week summer school program. They also offer Masters programs that start at 17,600 RMB per year.

Dorm living is 400-550 RMB per month depending on whether you want a 4-student room or a single room.

  • Contact: +86 (991) 433-3951 or (991) 433-3952     Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
  • Address: 中国新疆乌鲁木齐市新医路102号 新疆师范大学国际文交流学院 邮编:830054

Xinjiang Agricultural University (农业大学)

Study in Xinjiang Agriculture University in Urumqi Xinjiang Located in the northwest of Urumqi, the Xinjiang Agricultural University offers an unusually large, beautiful campus in a nice part of town. Despite its title, the school offers over 30 different undergraduate degrees and another 30 graduate degrees.

NongDa (as it’s often referred to here) claims to offer Uyghur language courses among others, but I have yet to hear of anybody actually studying Uyghur there.

Tuition cost as of 2015 is 12,150 RMB a year for language students. They offer a Master’s program (17,000 RMB/yr) and a Ph.D. program as well (21,000 RMB/yr). Housing is estimated at 2,100 RMB per semester.

  • Contact: +86 (992) 876-3882 or email [email protected]
  • Address: 新疆乌鲁木齐市农大东路311号 邮编:830052

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Xinjiang Arts Institute (艺术学院)

Xinjiang Arts College main gate in Urumqi Also located in the southern part of Urumqi in the heart of Uyghur neighborhoods is the Xinjiang Arts Institute. The school has a reputation of having small class sizes – which is good – but the teaching is subpar. They are one of the few that offers dedicated Uyghur classes, although they don’t advertise this heavily.

It is possible to live on campus here, but most students tend to live in the neighborhoods around here, which are primarily Uyghur. There are also quite a few buses that stop right at the front gate.

Tuition as of July 2018 is the traditional 6,000 RMB per semester or 12,000 for the year not including housing and additional fees.

  • Contact: +86 (991) 256-8202 or (991) 255-4104
  • Address: 新疆乌鲁木齐市团结路734号邮编:830049

Xinjiang Vocational University (职业大学)

Entrance to the Xinjiang Vocational University (职业大学) in Urumqi One of the lesser-known universities in Urumqi is the Xinjiang Vocational University. It is one of the smaller schools and is tucked away in the southeast part of town in a quiet neighborhood.

There are limited foreign students here but they study everything from the Mandarin to the Kazakh language.

Admissions information is limited but it’s a safe bet that tuition ranges around 12,000 RMB per year not including housing and application fees.

  • Contact: +86 (991) 378-5326 or email: [email protected]
  • Address: 乌鲁木齐市北京北路1075号 邮编:830013

Kashgar Teacher’s College (喀什师范学院)

Kashgar Teacher's College (喀什师范学院) in Kashgar, Xinjiang **Updateit seems that foreigners are not allowed to study or teach in Kashgar as of March 2012 (link to archived article), although this could change in the future.

Although it is much easier for a foreigner to live in Urumqi than it is Kashgar, it is possible to study there at the Kashgar Teacher’s College. They are very strict on their procedures, however, so make sure to give plenty of time for red tape and paperwork.

Unlike Urumqi, where off-campus housing is “against the rules” but not really enforced, I’ve heard that Kashgar is more strict.  Keep in mind that it may seem adventurous to study in Kashgar – and it probably is – but the quality of teaching will be much better in Urumqi.

  • Contact: +86 (991) 229-6615

Conclusion | Study Uyghur

So there you go! If you have the time and money to do full-time study in Xinjiang, great. If not, you can always find other resources for studying the Uyghur language.

Also keep in mind that you can come to Xinjiang to teach English and then do Uyghur tutoring on the side. It’s not the same experience, but it definitely keeps your costs down.

Have you studied Uyghur before? How was your experience?

About Josh Summers

Josh is the author of Xinjiang | A Traveler's Guide to Far West China, the most highly-reviewed and comprehensive travel guide on China's western region of Xinjiang. He lived, studied and run a business in Xinjiang, China for more than 10 years, earning recognition for his work from CCTV, BBC, Lonely Planet and many others.

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Leave a Comment

  1. This information is, unfortunately, outdated and incorrect. Following the July riots in the summer of 2009, all universities in Urumchi stopped teaching Uyghur to foreigners (I can’t vouch for other cities). Best bet is to study a bit of Uyghur at home — or perhaps at Indiana’s SWSEEL language program in the summer — and then find a teacher/tutor through one of the many language schools popping up in Xinjiang.


    Josh on September 17th, 2010 at 1:46 am

    Hmmm…thanks for passing on that info. I was in Urumqi after the riots and still knew quite a few people studying Uyghur. Do you think maybe they just stopped new students?

    I might contact you to hear more from you. Thanks for the comment, though.


  2. I need to correct myself: the Arts Institute is still teaching Uyghur to foreigners, though it’s the only university doing so. From what I understand, the teaching leaves _much_ to be desired.


  3. I’m going to have to say this. Never, ever, ever pick a university in XJ for the “quality of its classes.” You’re not in Shanghai or Beijing anymore, Toto – and so generally the quality of classes ANYWHERE in Xinjiang will inevitably be piss-poor, irrespective of which one is “better” than the other. My advice – take it or leave it as you please – is ALWAYS, when you are studying Uyghur, pick by location.

    In experience in U-town was the classes really didn’t count for nothing except an excuse to be in XJ. I would go to classes – buh, whatever – then I would do my real, intensive, and fun Uyghur language learning by going out and chillin’ with Uyghurs.

    Incidentally, I regretted going to a university with a poor location. To do my requisite learning Uyghur with the Uyghurs I had to take a bus 30 minutes each direction. Sucked.

    That being said, I say go with Xinjiang Daxue or the Arts institute. Both of which are in historically Uyghur (and more fun, and more aesthetically pleasing, and more lively and energetic) parts of town.


    Josh on September 17th, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I agree about both the location and quality of learning. Regardless, Xinjiang is still the best place to try to learn Uyghur.

    As someone who has tried the “I’m going to teach English as my ‘in’ and learn the language in my free time” I found that was really difficult. I wonder if being a student – even if it was at a crappy school – would offer much more time to get a tutor and dedicate time to learning.


    Porfiriy on September 17th, 2010 at 5:54 am

    Well incidentally that’s exactly what I did. I told myself I’d study Uyghur on the side and taught English for a year, and didn’t learn squat. Out of spite I stayed on for another 4 months, moved to another city, and used the money I had saved teaching just to do full time studying. Again, I didn’t learn much in the classes themselves but without the burden of making lesson plans and with the ability to go to totally sweet Uyghur neighborhoods I got way more out of those 4 months than I did from the preceding year.

  4. From my understanding, it is still not possible to get a visa to study Uyghur in Urumqi. The Arts College apparently will officially sign students up as studying Ch and then let them study Uyghur? I have not heard if other colleges are doing the same.

    I have also heard that all Chinese officials in Xinjiang are being required to study Uyghur! More books for learning Uyghur through Chinese have started to come out. At least one of them seems pretty decent.


  5. Last I heard (which was pretty recent), the powers-that-be in Kashgar aren’t allowing any foreign residents there, whether you’re a student, teacher or business person. It’s just too hot a place right now for them to be willing to host foreigners (and I’m NOT referring to the weather!).


    Howard on September 20th, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I’ve wondered about the levels of intensity/concern that foreigners, especially Americans might face if visiting Kashgar. Afghanistan and Pakistan, with all their drama, are very close to Kashgar. Is that a zone the Chinese military is very active in?


    Josh on September 21st, 2010 at 1:30 am

    It’s a zone with plenty of security personnel and a small amount of tension, but I wouldn’t call it “active”. My experience indicates that Americans are quite welcome – the tension is between the Han and Uyghur, both of whom don’t really hold a grudge against Americans.

    As a traveler I think it’s perfectly safe to go over there. The question is whether they allow you to stay long-term.

  6. Old article, but thought I would throw my two cents in and offer an update on the information above. As of right now, foreigners can NOT take Uyghur at Xinjiang University. I have heard the same for Kashgar Teacher’s College (or anywhere in Kashgar, for that matter, although I can’t personally verify this as I can with XU). I do know for a fact that you CAN take classes at Xinjiang Normal University, however, because I’m currently enrolled there. I’ve only been taking Uyghur there for one month, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised! The quality of the teaching is pretty solid (the head Uyghur teacher is a guy named Erkin, who’s been teaching it to foreigners for years and has instructed several prominent western scholars). The course itself is a little…all over the place, as in, they don’t really follow the textbook and just teach you whatever comes to mind, but the teachers are very friendly and willing to help. Also, the front office is shockingly helpful and efficient for a Chinese government body, and even arranged private classes for me at no extra charge to catch up with the rest of the class. The dorms are pretty awful though, so I would recommend getting a place off campus. The Uyghur neighborhood is only about 20 minutes away by the new fast bus. But yeah, overall I’m pretty satisfied so far, and would definitely recommend it as the best option right now! I’d be happy to help anyone else out who’s interested in studying Uyghur here…

    Anyway, here is their current contact info if you want to update the above:
    Current email is: [email protected]
    Telephone: 0991 4332589 (Liu Laoshi)


    Shasha on June 29th, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Thank you, Matt. Your post is helpful. I am interested in learning Uyghur and living in Xinjiang. I have written you an e-mail to the address above.


    Shasha on July 2nd, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    HI Matt,

    I actually e-mailed to the address you provided, but I realized this is probably the university’s address, not your personal address, so I re-sent that email in Chinese.

    How can I get in touch with you?

    Are you still living in Urumqi? Are you still taking classes? How did your visa situation work? I have these questions and many more…

    It would be a HUGE help to discuss.




    Josh on September 12th, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Hello Shasha,

    Did you get a response from the email address?

    Matt on September 17th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Shasha, sorry about the delayed response, I’m just rechecking this thread now. I’m a bit hesitant to put my email up online, but maybe if you emailed Josh he could give it to you? I’m certainly willing to help :)

    David Williams on January 5th, 2013 at 10:09 am


    Matt, I’d be delighted if you could share some practical info about studying Uyghur at XNU. Please pardon my directness!

    How can I get in contact with their Uyghur language program?

    Did you enter China with an X-visa (student visa) or enter with a tourist visa and then change it (this can be finagled in some but not all provinces)?

    semester-long programs as well as short-terms programs?

    thanks a ton!

  7. I’ve always thought that learning Yugher in Urmuqi was a bonus to learning about newspaper reading in China. Is it relatively easy to finda Yugher speaker who teaches in Kashgar?


  8. As of 2013, it was my understanding that the Arts Institute was still the only university providing a Uyghur study program for foreigners.


  9. i want to learn kashgery language


    Josh Summers on May 19th, 2014 at 3:18 am

    Well then start studying Uyghur!


    APAK KHOJA on November 4th, 2014 at 10:03 am

    It was so good to understand, having grasp of what should we do before living in Urumqi. Thank you for the website Josh. My friend told me they would not allow any foreigner to teach or enroll the program in Kashgar. Many Koreans have been looking for the ways to go Kashgar since 2009 protest.. but never ever possible to study or live…even the last one who was teaching martial arts to make a living there, he was not able to get further visa since 2013. But some friends told me there are a handful of students (Koreans) studying outside of Urumqi. (Might be Ghulja)

  10. Dear Mr. Summers,

    Thank you so much for your helpful college reviews. I am wanting to go to Urumqi to study language this spring. Do you recommend going to through a third party organization (such as Study in China or Cucas) or just coming over and applying in person? I’m asking because two of the college websites I’ve looked at do not have a way to apply through them. They seem to leave that information blank.

    Thanks for any information/advice you can give.

    K F


  11. Just called Xinjiang Teacher’s College at the number listed, and was informed that the Uyghur program has been cancelled. I’m going to call the other schools, and will provide updates as to their status


    Josh Summers on March 23rd, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Yea, there used to be a program there (back when I was a student there) but it’s since been scrapped.


  12. Just called Xinjiang University, and the man who answered the phone said no Uyghur is planned at the moment due to not having enough students, but said to call back at the end of June to see if there would be enough for a fall class. The Xinjiang Agricultural number seems to be out of service. The Xinjiang Arts Institute number listed works, and another number was given for the teacher in charge of the Uyghur program: 9912590391 . The Xinjiang Vocational College number works, but the lady answering the phone was not very clear about whether or not there are Uyghur classes, and said to call the dean of the Chinese languages school at 9913741871 (no response when I called). Obviously take all of this with a grain of salt, as it’s always possible that the wrong people were answering the phone today, but in any event, there’s an update as of March 2016.


    Josh Summers on March 23rd, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    I appreciate it, Preston! Honestly, I’m impressed that you were able to get such a high response rate. My experience with calling usually doesn’t turn out as good ;)


    Brian on May 23rd, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Xinjiang institute of the arts just informed me they will not offer Uyghur classes anymore. That was the last place i knew of offering classes. What now?


    Josh Summers on May 25th, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I don’t know who told you that but it’s not true. They’ve been offering Uyghur classes and will continue to do so. My guess is they just didn’t want to add another student perhaps?

    Brian on May 31st, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    I was told so by two students currently attending the program, who I know personally. While Xinjiang Institute of the Arts had indeed been offering classes, all sources both official and non-official have told me they will not offer classes after this spring. This all happened over the past two or three weeks. How recent is your info? I’d love to be wrong!

    Josh Summers on May 31st, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    I’m living here right now and speaking with students. I’ll keep digging but so far I’ve heard nothing from this side.

  13. Hello Uyghur language enthusiasts!

    I’d love to hear the current prospects for a foreign student hoping to study the Uyghur language in Urumqi within the next year to two. I know that it will likely continue to change but any update as to the existence of language programs in 2017 would be greatly appreciated. I am a fluent Mandarin speaker already but I have my heart set on doing everything possible to learn Uyghur. Josh or anybody else with current connections or information please feel free to respond!


    Josh Summers on May 28th, 2017 at 4:51 am

    Hi Grace! I’d love to hear if anybody knows differently, but to my knowledge here in Urumqi, there is no foreigner who is allowed to formally study Uyghur. Most people just enroll for Mandarin and take Uyghur tutoring classes on the side now.