Project Overview

A Comparative Study of Internal and International Mobility of Chinese Higher Education Students

As many as 50 million young Chinese have migrated from their hometowns in the countryside and become urban residents as a result of seeking higher education, while Chinese students constitute the largest single group of international students in the richer countries of the world, making up 20% of the total student migration to these countries. Conversely, the number of Japanese students who are travelling for their education, whether to a different region or country, is on the decline – and has been since just after 2000.

‘Bright Futures’ aims to investigate how Chinese and Japanese students and their families make decisions about migrating for education within their own country and overseas. Starting from a transnational vantage point, our analytical perspective connects educational migrations to transnational convergences, among higher education institutions towards global standards, and among students towards the spread of educational and mobility aspirations. The research seeks to shed new light on the relationship between educational mobility and broader life course aspirations and orientations, as well as their regional and global dynamics.

Our research design is innovative: We conduct three-way comparisons on a representative sample of Chinese and Japanese students in British and German universities, with those who moved or stayed domestically for their education, as well as Chinese students who migrated to Japan. Through such comparisons, we expect to unveil a number of theoretical issues such as selectivity in educational migration; how individual preferences are shaped for regional as opposed to beyond region migrations; and the differential impact of such preferences on broader life course orientations and expectations.  The main data are collected through large-scale surveys among representative sample of student groups, complemented by exploratory interviews with students and parents.

As well as producing large-scale survey data on Chinese and Japanese student migrants, we hope our research will be helpful for future students and their parents in understanding more about the context for decision-making on migration for education and provide information that will be useful to institutions in improving the experience of international students.

‘Bright Futures’ is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), German Research Foundation (Germany), and the National Natural Science Foundation (China). Our researchers are from the University of Essex (UK), the University of Edinburgh (UK), the National Distance Education University (Spain), Bielefeld University (Germany) and Tsinghua University (China).