NEW: Policy report just released

In Search of Excellence Booklet Cover

This first report on the ‘Bright Futures’ data has been prepared for an audience involved in international student mobility. The full report can be downloaded above, and is being presented at several events in the coming months. Among the main points of the report are:

  • Students from the PRC are central to the internationalization of education, constituting more than 20 percent of globally mobile higher education students. Our study draws on the first representative sample survey of Chinese students in the UK (as well as surveys of a comparable group of Chinese students in Germany and China, and control groups of home students in the UK and Germany) to analyse what characterizes this group. We find that Chinese students overseas are heterogeneous (just as home students are), while in many ways Chinese students at home and abroad converge with home students in the UK and Germany, pointing to a global approach to higher education that aligns students from different origins and backgrounds.

Who are they?

  • More than a third of Chinese students studying in Europe do not come from privileged middle class backgrounds.
  • Chinese students in the UK include both high achievers and low scorers, and thus show a similarly broad range of prior academic achievement to their peers in China.
  • In the UK, the predominance of Chinese students in business and economics (51% of undergraduates and 56% of masters students) contrasts with their relative under-representation in STEM subjects, social sciences and humanities and ‘other’ (which includes law and medicine).
  • By contrast, Germany attracts many more STEM students (61% both for undergraduates and masters students).

Why do they come?

  • Motivation for studying abroad is not simply about building a CV or enhancing career prospects.
  • Respondents reflect the ideal of a HE student having broad aspirations and being pro-active, open and aware of their individuality.
  • We find similar expectations of what students want to gain from their HE experience among Chinese students in the UK, Germany and China, as well as among home students in Europe, pointing to increasingly standardized orientations among HE students globally.

Do they plan to stay?

  • Around half of Chinese undergraduate students in our survey (60% in the UK, 47% in Germany) have intentions to continue studying after their current degree, and overwhelmingly in their current host country (the UK or Germany, both 85%).
  • Among those who intend to work after their current degree, around 70 percent of Chinese students in the UK (if we include those who are not certain) plan to return to China. This figure is around 35 percent in Germany.

Are they struggling?

  • ‘Adjustment’ to academic learning environment in European universities is not a problem for a large majority of our respondents.
  • Chinese international students are not more distressed than home students in Germany and the UK.
  • Our survey finds that during their studies in the UK these students are achieving a broad spread of grades, and thus present a similarly mixed picture to their home student peers.