The United States and China have agreed to exchange university students and scholars for research and study beginning this winter, the National Science Foundation announced yesterday.

Sixty Americans will be sent to China under a federally funded program, and the People's Republic of China expects to send about 10 times that many here over next year, according to a verbal pact made in Washington last weekend.

Talks about the exchange began with a visit to China by White House science adviser Frank Press and other officials in July, and concluded with the accord reached as 11 Chinese officials and scholars ended a two-week NSF-sponsored visit here Sunday.

In addition to the 500 to 700 students the Chinese hope to enroll under this program, an unspecified number of others will have access to colleges here through private arrangements with various U.S. universities as a result of the agreement. The first of those students are now enrolled at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. The United States also anticipates placements of Americans scholars in China under other programs resulting from the agreement, NSF director Richard C. Atkinson said.

In an 11-point verbal accord, each side agreed to institute the two-way exchange, to use "its best efforts" to fulfill requests for study opportunities, and said both sides may take full advantage of any available scholarships.

There has been no final agreement on which U.S. and Chinese universities will be included.

The huge difference in the size of the initial exchanges reflects a lag in China's educational and technological progress and its recent efforts toward rapid, massive modernization, observers said.

Harvey Averch, head of NSF international and scientific affairs and one of the negotiators, said it is evident the Chinese "firmly believe that education, and particularly science and technology, is the "key" to the modernization of agriculture, industry and national defense.

The education delegation, headed by Peking University's president, Dr. Chou Pei-yuan, inspected 14 universities and colleges and questioned officials from Harvard to Stanford before returning to Washington finalize the exchange with the State Department, NSF, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, National Security Council and others.

A U.S. official traveling with the group said the Chinese stressed the need for interaction not only in classrooms and laboratories but in dormitory life and social settings. They showed little concern that Chinese students might become too westernized, the official said.

Addressing a luncheon group at Berkeley that included two Chinese students who have already enrolled, Pei-yuan admonished them not only to bring credit to China, but also to note well American advancements in a relatively short 200-year history, a member of the negotiating team related. The delegation seemed keenly interested in junior-college training another observer said.

The first 10 U.S. scholars, expected to arrive in Peking early in 1978, will be post-graduate or advanced level scholars, according to Pierre Perrolle, of the Committee on Scholarly Communication will the People's Republic of China, which has brought numerous groups of visiting Chinese scholars here since 1972.

Perrollee said the committee, sponsored in part by the National Academy of Sciences, has already received numerous inquiries on the seven graduate fellowships and three research grants that will be issued initially. They were announced last week.

The first Chinese students will not include undergraduates. China's urgent need for managers of modern technology and up-to-date faculties in its universitites demands that senior scholars get first preference, a U.S. official explained.

Similar Chinese delegations were arranging exchange programs with several European countries at the same time as the visit here, NSF spokesmen said.

The Chinese have said they prefer studies in physical and biomedical sciences, engineering and applied technology, while U.S. scholars are expected to concentrate largely but not exclusively on social sciences, humanities, language and literature, archeology and art.