Students Staff

05 January 2015

A bright future often means long distance travel for Chinese students

Colchester Campus

Chinese students

Chinese students are the globe's most mobile student population.

A pioneering three-year study into the motivations, aspirations, and expectations of Chinese university students in Europe and China is being led by Essex.

Led by Professor Yasemin Soysal, the project is a rare look into what motivates the globe’s most mobile student population to accept having to travel long distances from home to study.

Working with colleagues in Scotland, Germany, Spain and China, the new £979,000 research project – titled Bright Futures (a notion used extensively by teachers in Chinese schools to convey the importance of pursuing advanced education) – will survey Chinese students who have to travel a long way from home for their studies both inside China and abroad. The study is a first of its kind comparing internal and international student mobility.

“Student mobility is an important factor in China with young people moving away from home to seek ‘bright futures’ through higher education,” explained Professor Soysal. “This could mean moving to urban areas in China or abroad.”

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.

“A growing proportion of these students are heading to Europe,” added Professor Soysal, “Yet systematic research on a representative sample of these educational migrants is lacking.

“While there is much interest in the contribution of international students to the vitality of the higher education sector and economy, we have little individual level evidence to understand the phenomenon of educational migration,” added Professor Soysal, from the Department of Sociology.

The new project analyses which types of students choose migration and the sectors of the population from which they come from, how experiences abroad affect their life plans, what they expect to gain from what is often very expensive higher education and how the educational migration process shapes their aspirations and broader life orientations.

The project will run for three years and is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council, the German Research Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.


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