I'm trying to apply for a China student visa (non-degree course) but I want to stay in China after to work. Would I have to return to the UK after study or would I be allowed to stay in China and apply for a work visa? I want to stay in China and live there.
You would at least need to first earn a bachelors degree to be eligible for any job. And without 2 years of working experience, it will be difficult to find a job in a large city, so you would have to check out the 'point system' to see if you are at least a 'Class B' foreigner (the points are based on your level of Chinese, work experience in and outside of China, type of college degree earned, university you graduated from, etc.) You can get additional points if you are willing to work in areas of China that are less developed than Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, etc.
Note that if you were to graduate from a Chinese university, then this would also increase your chances.
However, you would need to return to the UK to apply for your visa, as you must apply in person at the Chinese consulate in your home country.
And as word of advice, when you are looking for work, make sure you find a company that understands the process to hire foreign workers, as it can be rather complicated at times.