Chinese ‘revert to favouring Western study destinations’

Survey suggests move to regional mobility may have been temporary response to pandemic

December 7, 2020
Plane landing in UK
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Student mobility within Asia is likely to increase in the coming years but the trend will not be at the expense of mobility to traditional Western countries, a scholar has predicted.

Research carried out by a team at Lingnan University Hong Kong found that while Chinese students were increasingly keen on studying within East Asia in the early stages of the pandemic, they have now reverted to favouring more traditional higher education destinations.

A survey of 2,739 Chinese students in May revealed that just 16 per cent of respondents were interested in studying abroad and, of those who were, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan were among the five most popular destinations, alongside the US and UK. 

However, a follow-up survey of 217 Chinese students in October found that 62 per cent said they were interested in studying abroad after the Covid-19 crisis. When asked which countries they would choose, respondents were most likely to cite the UK (25 per cent), US (13 per cent), Australia (10 per cent), Germany (10 per cent), Hong Kong (9 per cent) and Canada (9 per cent). Less than 2 per cent of respondents selected Taiwan and less than 1 per cent picked Malaysia.

Ka Ho Mok, vice-president and Lam Man Tsan chair professor of comparative policy at Lingnan, who presented the findings at a China and Higher Education Network conference organised by the University of Manchester, said that when he saw the data from the first survey he thought there might be “a paradigm shift” towards Asian students staying within their region to study.

However, he said that the latest survey results, albeit based on a small sample, suggest that although “some regional mobility” may occur, “the traditional Western democracies are still very favourable” to Chinese students.

Professor Mok added that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership – a new Asia-Pacific trade deal announced last month between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand – was likely to be “an important platform that China will use for promoting culture, people-to-people mobility and collaboration in terms of higher education”.

“My two studies do not indicate a paradigm shift where Asian or Chinese students will stop going overseas for learning in Western economies. But certainly I think that [strengthening] regional [connections] will provide another platform for students’ learning,” he said.

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Reader's comments (1)

How dare can someone present a finding based on a survey of 217 students among the 10m+ Chinese students studying abroad!? Is this serious science?


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