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“Reciprocity” key for China, analysts tell CGHE19

China took centre stage at Centre for Global Higher Education’s annual conference in London in April – both touted as study destination and key partner for universities, others emphasised the employability limitation experienced by Chinese students when they return home.

Masters students in China have time to complete work experience as part of their programs, according to Yuyang Kang. Photo: The PIE News

As the US aims to defend against Chinese interests, the EU is perhaps more welcoming

“Companies won’t give a higher salary simply because you graduated from an overseas university,” Yuyang Kang said, as she presented research carried out by Ka Ho Mok, CGHE co-investigator.

It depends on skills and work experience, she explained, adding that returning students are returning to lower wages than previous generations and a “narrowing” wage gap between university graduates and non-graduates.

“Some studies indicate that there may not be a significant correlation between students with international experience and how much they earn,” Kang noted.

Although studying abroad opens up opportunities to work other countries, if students return to China it can add barriers to accessing the local job market.

“Companies won’t give a higher salary simply because you studied overseas”

While Chinese master’s last three years, featuring time for work experience and internships, those completing masters courses in the UK may not have time to “develop their professional skills,” Kang indicated.

Domestic graduates also benefit from building “local alumni networks” while studying, she added.

While China is viewed by many as a “traditionally dominant” source country, CGHE research associate Lin Tian told delegates that China has gradually shifted to become a study destination.

By 2018, China had already reached its target of hosting 500,000 students by 2020, she added, with the majority of students coming from Asia, particularly South Korea.

Tian’s research, including responses from 27 Chinese participants from across government, agencies and universities, shows the Chinese do not view incoming students as “cash cows”, but see the process as one of “reciprocity”.

“It is closely related to the idea of global common good, which means both higher education institutions and students need each other to reach their intended goals,” she said.

Citing reports in Dutch media, professor of Higher Education at Utrecht University, Marijk van der Wende, explained that dealing with the rise of China is now a “top priority” for the EU.

“China is more important than Brexit,” she said.

“Not only because China has become a major competitor, but also the EU has become aware of the impact of China’s new silk road,” she asserted, which itself offers “huge opportunities”.

As visa application for Chinese students at US colleges are seeing lengthy delays, and the US appears reluctant to engage with China, according to van der Wende, “it seems the EU wants to go its own way and not be dictated by the US”.

“The EU is more open, Horizon [research grants program] is open to the world including China, Erasmus+ is open to the world including China,” van der Wende noted.

Those seeking to invest in China’s education “need to realise that China isn’t any more the workshop of the world, from which one can recruit all those students”, she added. “They will have to and expected to contribute to China’s aim.”

Although it’s important to collaborate, “you can’t be naive”, she warned.

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