Asian Educational Mobilities: A Comparative Study of International Migration of Japanese and Chinese Higher Education Students

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

This project will conduct a systematic and comparative analysis of Asian student mobilities--one of the most intense flows of educational migrations. We will shed new light on the relationship between educational mobility and life course aspirations and formation, and their regional dynamics. Our research design is innovative: We propose three-way comparisons on a representative sample of Japanese and Chinese students in British and German universities, with those who stayed domestically for their education, as well as Chinese students who migrated to Japan. Through such comparisons, and using a variety of multivariate techniques and network analysis, 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 perceived value and potential of tertiary education for future life course aspirations. In addition to producing invaluable survey data on Chinese and Japanese student migrants, the research will benefit a range of non-academic stakeholders, including governments, tertiary institutions, think-thanks, and organizations involved in providing information and support to international students. The project builds upon European partners' current funded survey study "Bright Futures: Internal and International Mobility of Chinese Students" and their collaboration with University of Kyoto researchers.

Planned Impact

Our impact strategy aims to involve four groups of stakeholders at the project design stages, so that we can make full use of their contextual knowledge and feed their needs for information into the design of our survey instruments. This is particularly important since one of the main real world impacts of this project is reducing information gaps so that actors including governments, universities and students and their parents can make more appropriate choices. The initial phases of our project thus have such consultation with interested parties as a central objective, combining gathering input and gathering data.

Governments and parliaments: In all project countries, governments have a need for quality information as input into policymaking affecting educational mobility and provision of higher education to domestic and international students. Both the UK and German governments have identified increasing educational exchanges with East Asia, and particularly with China, as an aspect of a broader programme of cultural interaction and engagement. Such
aims are often in tension with border control policies, and our research may provide insight on dynamics of mobility and migration that could contribute to more integrated policy regarding international students. We will prepare briefings on our findings for government actors in various settings.

Higher education institutions: This research will be of interest to virtually all HEIs in the UK and Germany, as it is highly relevant to understanding and potentially improving the educational experience of the growing number of students from East Asia they are receiving. Although this project focuses on students studying in the UK and Germany, many of its conclusions may also be relevant to academic administrators in other countries with a high volume of student migrants from East Asia. We expect that our findings could be used by university administrators to improve measures to integrate students from East Asia, addressing specific needs and information gaps that may exist for this group.

Education agents and NGOs: A wide range of for for-profit and non-profit organizations will also benefit. These include education recruiters such as the British Council, Goethe Institute, German Academic Exchange Service and EIC Group; national and international organizations and associations concerned with higher education trends, professional matters and international student welfare; and national and regional student unions and advocacy organizations. Many associations in the higher education sector have recently identified student mobility as a specific concern for their members. To reach HEIs and education agents, we plan three main approaches: half-day conferences for HEIs, education agents and organizations involved in international education; articles in specialist education media; and a downloadable policy-oriented report in the three languages of the project partners on the websites of our institutions.

Students, parents and the general public: East Asian students and their parents face a bewildering array of choices regarding higher education, and our findings can potentially provide them with feedback on the implications of different options. While our data gathering will identify specific information gaps among this group, it will also generate ideas on how to reach them with our findings. Briefings to mainstream media covering education issues in China, Hong Kong, and Japan, and blogs on relevant websites and dedicated forums discussing educational migration will be a useful beginning.

Publications

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Cebolla-Boado H (2017) Why study abroad? Sorting of Chinese students across British universities in British Journal of Sociology of Education

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Cebolla-Boado H (2017) Educational optimism in China: migrant selectivity or migration experience? in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

 
Description East Asian Mobilities (EAM) project relied on comparisons between two educational migrant flows, Chinese and Japanese higher education (HE) students, in European destinations and non-migrants at origin. On the basis of systematic comparisons of these flows, the project makes contributions in three main strands of scientific literature, with potential contributions in other areas as well.

1) Migrant Selectivity.
Our results bring to the table two important and clear-cut findings:
• a pattern of relative selection among Chinese and Japanese students abroad when compared with non-movers by 'observable' socio-economic characteristics; although we find that the background of international students is much more diverse than is normally expected by the scholars of international education (IE), undermining the widespread arguments in the literature that IE is in the main a middle-class strategy for elite reproduction;
• no evidence of selection on the basis of 'unobservable' characteristics (i.e. individual traits such as ambition, creativity, or being a risk-taker or independent-minded); Chinese and Japanese international HE students are not different from those who have not migrated abroad for their studies.
Selectivity is a crucial topic in the current migration literature and we believe that our findings have implications beyond international students and likely to apply to other highly skilled migrants as well.

2) Transnationalization of aspirations and cosmopolitan outlooks.
Our project findings point to increasingly standardized orientations among HE students globally. We found convergence among European, Chinese and Japanese students, independent of whether they have migrated for their education or not, around the ideal of a HE student having broad aspirations (beyond a narrow instrumental focus, being pro-active, open (to the world and others) and aware of their individuality. Regarding commitment to global social solidarities, however, a less clear pattern transpires. While European and Japanese students in our survey study are more likely to display "cosmopolitan" orientations, in the case of Chinese students, irrespective of whether they are in Europe or China, we observe a stronger social commitment to co-nationals and the nation. This is an important finding for the expanding literature on the transnationalization of HE and its role in the shaping of individual student orientations and life-choices. Our project contributes to this new line of research by showing the importance of the timing and context within which countries' HE systems are linked with the global centers.

3) Well-being among HE students.
Specifically, using a standard scale of mental wellbeing, our research revealed that levels of distress of international Chinese and Japanese students are similar to those of European home students (and higher than distress levels in China and Japan). This is an important finding for the literature on tertiary education and the social epidemiology of migration and youth: educational migrants adapt to host country populations. Our finding invites researchers interested in integration and migration to reconsider the impact of migration on the wellbeing particularly among the highly educated.
Exploitation Route The comparative findings of the project on two major student flows from East Asia--Japanese (a traditionally strong student flow but recently in decline) and Chinese (a recent and rapidly increasing one)--challenge some of common assumptions about international students among actors involved in international student mobility. In the course of the project, we partnered closely with the UK Council on International Student Affairs and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), through which we were able to offer the use of our findings in their advocacy. We provided tailored, confidential reports for the universities we surveyed with sound information upon which institution-specific changes can be implemented. As for academic impact, the main contribution of the project was the production of the first ever large-scale (over a sample size of 8000), representative micro-level database on HE students from China and Japan, in origin and multiple destination countries (UK, Germany, and Japan). The dataset (Bright Futures: East Asian Student Mobilities. Technical Report. http://brightfutures-project.com/technical-report/) will enable thorough research designs for studies of theoretical questions such as migrant selectivity, transnationalization of aspirations and motivations, life course orientations and well-being among highly educated stimulating further research and theorization in the field. The dataset has been already used in three PhDs linked with the project and produced a number of publications on the topic.
Sectors Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://brightfutures-project.com/technical-report/
 
Description Global Outlooks - Mapping the Conceptual and Organizational Pathways of Internationalization in Higher Education
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Essex 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 08/2018
 
Description Scientists on the Move: Selectivity and Life Course Orientations among High-Skilled Migrants in the UK
Amount £9,973 (GBP)
Funding ID SRG1819\191311 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description The University of Essex's Executive Dean Fund
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Funding ID DISENTANGLING THE DETERMINANTS OF MENTAL WELL-BEING OUTCOMES AMONG INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS 
Organisation University of Essex 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 07/2019
 
Title Bright Futures and East Asian Student Mobilities Survey 
Description The main empirical contribution of the Bright Futures and East Asian Mobilities projects is the production of the first ever large-scale (over a sample size of 8000), representative micro-level database on a single flow of highly educated migrants (Chinese higher education students) in origin (China) and multiple destination countries (UK, Germany, and Japan). Additionally, we surveyed Japanese international students, as a control group, in the same destinations. This survey was done using strict standards developed at the sampling stage, questionnaire drafting, and fieldwork. The dataset (Bright Futures: East Asian Student Mobilities. Technical Report. http://brightfutures-project.com/technical-report/) will enable thorough research designs for studies of theoretical questions such as migrant selectivity, transnationalization of aspirations and motivations, and life course orientations and wellbeing among the highly educated. SAMPLING: Specifically, we have developed a unique sampling frame to enable two-stage probability sampling to accurately reflect the Chinese student population in the UK. For this we produced an aggregate level dataset of the Chinese student population in UK universities using data from the Higher Education Statistical Agency and on university rankings. A similar sampling strategy was applied for the surveys in Germany and China. A quota sampling was applied in Japan. QUESTIONNAIRE: The survey questionnaire was strategically built to provide relevant indicators to answer all relevant research questions in our project. We have used different approaches in measuring our indicators through our questionnaire. 1. Most questions were developed by ourselves since our research questions are not fully developed in our literature of reference. 2. For those that were more standard we used already existing questions from key surveys such as the General Social Survey in Asia, the European Social Survey, the World Values Survey, China Family Panel Study and others. 3. Several of our questions use innovative survey methods. We used a number of survey experiments to produce answers that otherwise face a high risk of suffering from social desirability biases. These include questions on racism and xenophobia (list experiments); the respondents' position in the axis of 'cosmopolitan-national' orientation (donation game). SURVEY DATASET: The resulting survey dataset allows four-way comparisons, very rarely available in the reference research literature: • Chinese HE students who move abroad (UK, Germany, and Japan) for their degrees • Japanese HE students who move abroad (UK and Germany) for their degrees • Chinese HE students who remain and study either locally or migrate within China • UK and German home students who study in the UK and Germany (as control groups) IMPLICATIONS FOR SURVEY RESEARCH: The project has also produced a significant amount of information on how to sample students in tertiary education. On the complexity of reaching respondents in tertiary education and the challenges that multi-country sampling designs may represent for survey research, see D. Schneider, M. Mendez, H. Cebolla Boado, and Y. Nuhoglu Soysal, "Cross Cultural Implications for Survey Research: Lessons from the Bright Futures and East Asian Student Mobilities Projects," to be presented at the 2019 conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The dataset has been used in three PhDs linked with the project and produced a number of publications on the topic (see the publications section), as well as leading to the development of a number of other related funded projects (see the further funding section). 
URL http://brightfutures-project.com/technical-report/
 
Description Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Free University, Berlin, research visit and workshop 
Organisation Free University of Berlin
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joint workshop on Cultural Mobilities and their Transnational Entanglements in East Asia
Collaborator Contribution Joint workshop hosted by GEAS
Impact Joint research workshop
Start Year 2018
 
Description Research collaboration 
Organisation Hitotsubashi University
Country Japan 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We collaborated with researchers from the Institute for the Study of Global Issues on a joint funding bid submitted to the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science.
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration on a funding bid.
Impact Joint funding bid submitted to the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science: "Cultural Mobilities and Diffusions: Their Transnational Entanglements in Contemporary Asia"
Start Year 2018
 
Description UKCISA 
Organisation UK Council on International Student Affairs
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Two Bright Futures team members presented initial results of the survey on wellbeing of Chinese international students at UKCISA's annual conference in Edinburgh in summer 2018. UKCISA staff have stated that our results will prove useful in their advocacy work around addressing international student matters.
Collaborator Contribution UKCISA has been crucial in helping us make contact with people in international offices in UK universities that we were targetting for our survey. Approaching staff who might have an interest in understanding the situation of Chinese international students in specific universities was a key means through which we encouraged universities to agree to provide us access to a sample of their students to conduct our survey. UKCISA also endorsed our research project and our survey, and we included a statement to this effect in our messages to university staff when contacting them about participation in the survey. Since most universities with substantial international student populations are UKCISA members, this endorsement and assistance in contacting specific people was very important in the success of our survey. UKCISA also co-sponsored our initial launch event in London on 10 Oct. 2018, and sent on information about it to members through social media. Staff at UKCISA also suggested key actors involved in international student matters to invite to our event, which contributed to making the event a success. UKCISA also retweeted information about our report and findings to their followers, enabling us to reach a wider audience.
Impact Bright Futures survey data
Start Year 2016
 
Description Blog post for Asia Dialogue 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We published a blog post on our research in a series by 'Asia Dialogue' on international student mobility. This site has more than 4000 subscribers, so reaches a wide audience interested in Asia-related news and information. A brief paragraph on our post, with a link to the full post, was subsequently posted on World University News, thus amplifying the audience: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20191004142840916
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theasiadialogue.com/2019/10/01/seeking-excellence-why-chinese-students-choose-the-uk-for-hig...
 
Description China-Japan Roundtable Discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact About 30 people attended to a roundtable discussion of China-Japan Relations and the Impact of International Education. The attendees included representatives from Japan Embassy in China; Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO); Scwarzman Future Leaders Program. The presentation of the project results were received with great interest and discussion. We were invited for a visit to JASSO to engage with further discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Contribution to Parliamentary inquiry on international students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We provided an advance copy of our report, In search of excellence: Chinese students on the move, as a submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students for their inquiry, 'A sustainable future for international students in the UK'. Several paragraphs covered findings from our report, particularly focusing on the need for the development of 'best practice' in internationalization.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.exeduk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/APPG-Report-FINAL-WEB-1.pdf
 
Description ESRC Urban Transformations public workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop brought together senior researchers from the UK and China working on various aspects of urban transformations, with the goal of opening up new ways of thinking about the future city. There was strong interest in the findings of our project, particularly from the representatives from the Beijing Normal University, who were keen on engaging further discussions on how Chinese universities can develop their internationalization mission.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description FE News press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact A version of our press release on the policy report was published on the FE News sites, which is widely read by higher education administrators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.fenews.co.uk/press-releases/20523-stereotypes-about-chinese-international-students-are-m...
 
Description Panel presentation at the EURASIA Higher Education Summit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We gave presentations on the main findings of our project and took part in the networking breakfast. Our findings stimulated lively conversations and questions, which continued at the network event attended by university managers/administrators, international recruitment agencies, educational ministry representatives, sectoral organizations representing higher education institutions from Asia, North America, and Europe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL http://bulten.jettsms.com/mailing/10629db9-eee1-446c-baa6-7497c2ad212e.html
 
Description Presentation at conference for UKCISA members 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We gave a presentation, Well-being of Chinese international students at UK universities: report from a representative sample survey, that summarized findings from the Bright Futures survey data at the UK Council for International Student Affairs annual conference in Edinburgh in June 2018. Participants were primarily staff involved in international student recruitment and support at UK universities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/Training--Events/Annual-conference/Annual-Conference-2018
 
Description Presentation on findings in Hong Kong 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We presented key findings from our report, In search of excellence: Chinese students on the move, in the seminar series at the Consortium for Higher Education Research in Asia at the University of Hong Kong in late November 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://chera.edu.hku.hk/seminars/
 
Description Press release for report launch 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The University of Essex issued a press release outlining the findings of our study to coincide with the launch of our policy report in Oct. 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.essex.ac.uk/news/2018/10/10/stereotypes-about-chinese-international-students-are-mistake...
 
Description Public engagement, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Tokyo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact About 50 professional practitioners and academics attended to the presentation of project findings, which sparked questions and discussions afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Summer School on highly-skilled and student mobility 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This multidisciplinary International Summer School two-week programme focused on theoretical, methodological and thematic aspects of highly skilled and student migration, addressing the following questions: How to theorize these movements in relation to migrant selectivity? What are the directions and patterns of these movements? What are the drivers of these flows? What are the regulations, policies, and strategies of national governments, international organizations, companies, and universities regarding these movements? What are the outcomes and effects of these movements for individuals themselves, origin and destination countries? The Summer School was attended by 16 participants, including PhD and graduate students as well as junior experts in the field, such as migration lawyers and practitioners. Participants found this activity imparted valuable knowledge and skills, with 11 of 16 rating this as excellent or very good in their evaluations. Participants also said they appreciated the networking opportunities presented by the summer school, and the opportunity to interact with international experts in the field, and to get feedback on their own research projects and professional activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://miss.ku.edu.tr
 
Description Talk at British Council event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We were invited to present at a 24 Oct. British Council regional meeting for staff in universities working on international students. We gave a presentation on wellbeing of Chinese international students that also included a summary of our overall findings. The session was attended by around 25 staff from universities, as well as British Council organizers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018