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Title: Journey to the West : the role of Face, Suzhi and Guanxi in Chinese students' motivations and experiences of UK Higher Education
Author: Forbes, Ian David
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 8729
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2019
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UK university student populations are becoming increasingly Chinese. In the last five years alone, the percentage of international students in UK universities that came from mainland China has increased from 20% to 24% on account of an extra 19,000 Chinese international students studying in UK higher education institutions (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2019). In comparison, while in 2017/2018 there were 107,000 Chinese students enrolled in UK universities, no other international student population from any other country exceeded 20,000 (Higher Education Statistics Agency, 2019), implicating the increasing financial importance of Chinese students to UK universities. Yet as China’s university-aged population declines and the global higher education sector becomes more competitive, the need to understand Chinese students more deeply grows. While there has been much scholarly interest in Chinese international students in the last five years, there has been a relative lack of research into how Chinese culture affects their decision to study in the UK. This thesis therefore addresses this important gap. The thesis begins by using aggregate data analysis to describe the personal characteristics of Chinese international students in the UK. It then uses the qualitative analysis of 27 in-depth interviews to examine how key Chinese cultural concepts motivate Chinese students to study in the UK. The thesis finds that master’s students, especially female master’s students, are largely responsible for the rapid increase in Chinese international student mobility. The qualitative analysis provides evidence illustrating the variability within the Chinese international student population relating to their motivations to study in the UK, leading to the development of a typology of three groups of Chinese international student: the traditional student (for whom increasing job prospects is often the primarily motivation to study in the UK), the individualistic student (largely motivated to come to the UK through a desire to broaden their horizons and improve themselves) and the academic student (motivated by their passion for their chosen subject). Moreover, this thesis draws attention to three fundamental Chinese cultural aspects that shape the motivations and experiences of Chinese international students in the UK: face, suzhi (becoming a higher quality person) and guanxi (developing mutually beneficial relationships), and explains how these concepts affect the diverse Chinese international student population. The thesis ends by considering important implications for university policy.
Supervisor: Clifford, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available