China as a Destination in the Third Wave of International Student Mobility

rahul choudaha presenting at XJTLU China international students

In the previous Wave of international students, China played a crucial role in driving the overall growth momentum by as the largest source country. In the current Wave, China still has the potential to play a key role in shaping the future of international student mobility, however, this time as a destination country for international students seeking value for money.

I presented a guest lecture entitled ‘The Third Wave of International Student Mobility: Achieving Success for China as a Study Abroad Destination’ at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, an independent joint-venture university formed in partnership between University of Liverpool, UK and Xi’an Jiaotong University, China. I also presented this session at The Institute of Higher Education Policy and Management, Graduate School of Education, Dalian University of Technology.

I framed the potential of China in the context of the Three Waves of International Student Mobility and discussed the resulting implications for Chinese universities.

We know that international student choice process is a complex interaction of many factors, including cost, reputation, location, language and academics. However, as the cost of education in English-speaking destinations increases while the immigration and work opportunities reduce, there is an increasing demand for value for money among international students.

This is where China has a significant opportunity to become a key destination for international students. This opportunity is not only due to unwelcoming visa policies and the high cost of education in the top two leading destinations — the United States and the United Kingdom — but also because of proactive national policies and the increasing availability of affordable English-taught programs in China at some of the top-ranked universities. In addition, national policies such as the Belt and Road Initiative, Double-First Class, and Sino-foreign Cooperative Education are mutually reinforcing each other to create a stronger opportunity for China in the next few years.

However, it will not be an easy ride for Chinese universities as they have to overcome many challenges including:

  • staff and faculty capacity to work with international students
  • promoting and communicating quality of universities
  • visa policies for work and internship in China
  • immersion with language and culture
  • geopolitical tensions and perceptions

In order to maximize the potential for delivering a positive experience and supporting student success, it is critical to adopt a concentrated and intentional approach of understanding diverse needs of international students. In addition, resources and efforts must be invested to prepare and train campus communities to manage expectations.

During this trip, I also had a unique opportunity of visiting four joint venture universities and interviewing their leaders in January 2020. I visited Duke Kunshan University, NYU Shanghai, University of Nottingham Ningbo China and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Full video interviews are available here.

– Rahul Choudaha