Fighting Against Risks and Uncertainties
Chinese University Students’ Decision-Making About Study Abroad Under COVID-19
Keywords:COVID-19, studying abroad, undergraduates, China, risk, uncertainty, immobility
Building on a theoretical model of decision-making under risk and uncertainty, this paper examines how Chinese college students made decisions about international moblity or immobility during the Covid 19 pandemic. The paper finds that among the 118 interviewees, most continued to choose to study abroad, whilst some gave up after getting offers from prestigious Western universities. We further analysed the divergent patterns of two choices which can be explained by resilience to risks and uncertainties and lack of thereof. For those who have given up studying abroad, the symbolic capital and labor market advantages brought by degrees (especially master degrees) from Western universities have become uncertain and offset by the risk of the epidemic. These findings suggest that, in addition to safety, college students will prefer certainty more than before when choosing whether to go abroad and the study abroad landscape may change based on this mindset.
Almukhambetova, A., & Kuzhabekova, A. (2022). COVID-19 and the Changes in STEM Students’ Intentions to Pursue International Mobility. What Do the Students Say?. European Education, 1-16.
Altbach, P. G. (1989). The new internationalism: Foreign students and scholars. Studies in Higher Education, 14(2), 125–136.
Altbach, P., & de Wit, H. (2020). COVID-19: The internationalization revolution that isn’t. International Higher Education, (102), 16-18.
Beck, U. (1992). Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London:Sage.
Becker, R., & Hecken, A. E. (2009). Higher education or vocational training? An empirical test of the rational action model of educational choices suggested by Breen and Goldthorpe and Esser. Acta Sociologica, 52(1), 25–45.
Beech, S. E. (2014). Why place matters: Imaginative geography and international student mobility. Area, 46(2), 170-177.
Bodycott, P. (2009). Choosing a higher education study abroad destination: What mainland Chinese parents and students rate as important. Journal of research in International education, 8(3), 349-373.
Buckner, E., Zhang, Y., & Blanco, G. L. (2021). The impact of COVID‐19 on international student enrolments in North America: Comparing Canada and the United States. Higher Education Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1111/hequ.12365
Brooks, R., & Waters, J. (2009). A second chance at ‘success’ UK students and global circuits of higher education. Sociology, 43(6), 1085-1102.
Cairns, D., França, T., Calvo, D. M., & de Azevedo, L. (2021). An immobility turn? The Covid-19 pandemic, mobility capital and international students in Portugal. Mobilities, 1–14.
Cao, W., Fang, Z., Hou, G., Han, M., Xu, X., Dong, J., & Zheng, J. (2020). The psychological impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on college students in China. Psychiatry Research, 287(112934), 1–5. https://doi.org/ 10.1016/j.psychres.2020.112934
de Wit, H., & Altbach, P. G. (2020). Internationalization in higher education: Global trends and recommendations for its future. Policy Reviews in Higher Education, 5(1), 28–46.
Dimmock, C., & Ong Soon Leong, J. (2010). Studying overseas: Mainland Chinese students in Singapore. Compare, 40(1), 25–42.
Dohmen, T., Falk, A., Huffman, D., Sunde, U., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2005). Individual risk attitudes: New evidence from a large, representative, experimentally-validated survey [Discussion paper 1730]. Institute for the Study of Labor.
Dohmen, T., Falk, A., Huffman, D., et al. (2012). The intergenerational transmission of risk and trust attitudes. The Review of Economic Studies, 79(2), 645–677.
Du, Z., Sun, Y., Zhao, G., & Zweig, D. (2021). Do overseas returnees excel in the Chinese labour market? The China Quarterly, 247, 875–897.
Fereday, J., & Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International journal of qualitative methods, 5(1), 80-92.
Findlay, A., Prazeres, L., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2017). “It was always the plan”: International study as “learning to migrate.” Area, 49(2), 192–199.
Gerhards, J., & Hans, S. (2013) Transnational human capital, education, and social inequality: Analyses of international student exchange. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 42(2), 99–117.
Hao, J., & Welch, A. (2012). A tale of sea turtles: Job-seeking experiences of hai gui (high-skilled returnees) in China. Higher Education Policy, 25(2), 243–260.
Jaeger, D. A., Dohmen, T., Falk, A., Huffman, D., Sunde, U., & Bonin, H. (2010). Direct evidence on risk attitudes and migration. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(3), 684–689.
Kim, J. (2011). Aspiration for global cultural capital in the stratified realm of global higher education: Why do Korean students go to US graduate schools? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32(1), 109–126.
Kim, D., Bankart, C. A., Jiang, X., & Brazil, A. M. (2018). Understanding the college choice process of Asian international students. In Y. Ma & M. A. Garcia-Murillo (Eds.), Understanding international students from Asia in American universities: Learning and living globalization (pp. 15–41). Springer.
King, R., & Raghuram, P. (2013). International student migration: Mapping the field and new research agendas. Population, space and place, 19(2), 127-137.
Lee, J., Maldonado-Maldonado, A., & Rhoades, G. (2006). The political economy of international student flows: Patterns, ideas and propositions. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (Vol. 21, pp. 545– 590). Springer.
Lehmann, W., & Trower, H. (2018). Forms of capital and habitus in the decision to go on academic exchange. Canadian Review of Sociology/Revue canadienne de sociologie, 55(1), 136-148.
Li, M., Olson, J. E., & Frieze, I. H. (2013). Students' Study Abroad Plans: The Influence of Motivational and Personality Factors. Frontiers: The interdisciplinary journal of study abroad, 23, 73-89.
Lim, M. (2020). COVID, geopolitics, and the concerns of Chinese international students: Continuities and changes. https://covidism.wordpress.com/2020/10/09/covid-geopolitics-and-the-concerns-of-chinese-international-students-continuities-and-changes/
Lipura, S. J., & Collins, F. L. (2020). Towards an integrative understanding of contemporary educational mobilities: A critical agenda for international student mobilities research. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 18(3), 343–359.
Lörz, M., Netz, N., & Quast, H. (2016). Why do students from underprivileged families less often intend to study abroad? Higher Education, 72(2), 153–174.
Luthans, F., Vogelgesang, G. R., & Lester, P. B. (2006). Developing the psychological capital of resiliency. Human Resource Development Review, 5(1), 25–44.
Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2007). Psychological capital: Developing the human competitive edge. Oxford University Press.
Ma, W., & Zhang, Q. (2021). The impact of the covid-19 on the flow of international students and China's strategic choices: A risk society theory perspective (In Chinese). University Education Management, 15(01), 1–9.
Marginson, S. (2020, March 26). Global HE as we know it has forever changed. Times Higher Education. timeshighereducation.com/blog/global-he-we-know-it-has-forever-changed
Maringe, F., & Carter, S. (2007). International students' motivations for studying in UK HE: Insights into the choice and decision making of African students. International Journal of Educational Management, 21(6), 459-475.
Martel, M. (2020), COVID-19 effects on U.S. higher education campuses academic student mobility to and from China [COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series]. IIE. https://www.iie.org/COVID19-Effects-on-US-Higher-Education-Campuses
Mazzarol, T. and Soutar, G.N. (2002). Push‐pull factors influencing international student destination choice. The International Journal of Educational Management, 16(2), 82–90.
McMahon, M. E. (1992). Higher Education in a World Market. An Historical Look at the Global Context of International Study. Higher Education, 24(4), 465–482. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3447582
Merriam, S. B. 2009. Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. John Wiley & Sons.
Mok, K. H., Xiong, W., Ke, G., & Cheung, J. O. W. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on international higher education and student mobility: Student perspectives from mainland China and Hong Kong. International Journal of Educational Research, 105, 101718.
Moogan, Y. J., Baron, S., & Harris, K. (1999). Decision‐making behaviour of potential higher education students. Higher Education Quarterly, 53(3), 211-228.
Peters, M. A., Wang, H., Ogunniran, M. O., et al. (2020). China’s internationalized higher education during COVID-19: Collective student autoethnography. Postdigital Science and Education, 2, 968–988.
Peters, M. A., Hollingsa, S., Zhanga, M., Atta, E., Quainooa, H. W., Huanga, Y., ... & Greena, B. (2021). The changing map of international student mobility. ACCESS: Contemporary Issues in Education, 41(1), 7–28.
Presley, A., Damron-Martinez, D., & Zhang, L. (2010). A study of business student choice to study abroad: A test of the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Teaching in International Business, 21(4), 227-247.
QS. (2020). How COVID-19 is impacting prospective international students across the globe. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/98431/IntStudentsCOV19.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Qingta. (2020). In 2020, where are all the graduates from China's top prestigious universities? https://www.cingta.com/detail/19536
Yang, Rui. (2017). The cultural mission of China’s elite universities: examples from Peking and Tsinghua. Studies in Higher Education, 42:10, 1825-1838, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2017.1376873
Sá, M. J., & Serpa, S. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to foster the sustainable development of teaching in higher education. Sustainability, 12(20), 8525.
Salisbury, M. H., Umbach, P. D., Paulsen, M. B., et al. (2009). Going global: Understanding the choice process of the intent to study abroad. Research in Higher Education, 50(2), 119–143.
Sidhu, R., Collins, F., Ho, K. C., & Yeoh, B. (2021). International student mobilities in a contagion:(Im) mobilising higher education?. Geographical Research, 59(3), 313-323.
Sidhu, R., & Ishikawa, M. (2022). Destined for Asia: hospitality and emotions in international student mobilities. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 52(3), 399-417.
Tulloch, J., & Lupton, D. (2003). Risk and everyday life. London:Sage.
Van Mol, C. (2021). Exploring explanations for the gender gap in study abroad: A case study of the Netherlands. Higher Education, 1–19.
Williams, A. M., & Baláž, V. (2012). Migration, risk, and uncertainty: Theoretical perspectives. Population, Space and Place, 18(2), 167–180.
Williams, A. M., & Baláž, V. (2014). Migration, risk and uncertainty. Routledge.
Wu, Q. (2014). Motivations and decision-making processes of mainland Chinese students for undertaking master’s programs abroad. Journal of Studies in International Education, 18(5), 426-444
Xiang, B., & Shen, W. (2009). International student migration and social stratification in China. International Journal of Educational Development, 29(5), 513–522.
Yu, J. (2021). Lost in lockdown? The impact of COVID-19 on Chinese international student mobility. Journal of International Students, 11(S2), 1–18.
Zweig, D., Changgui, C., & Rosen, S. (2004). Globalization and transnational human capital: Overseas and returnee scholars to China. The China Quarterly, 179, 735–757.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Journal of International Students
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
All published articles are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License.