Deconstructing the Internationalization of Chinese Higher Education: Students’ Experiences

Year: 2018

Author: Guo, Shibao, Guo, Yan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The internationalization of higher education in China is happening at a rapid pace. Most Chinese universities place internationalization as one of the strategic priorities at the policy level. However, there is little research on Chinese undergraduate students’ experiences of internationalization from their own perspectives. This research therefore examines how internationalization policies at a university in China were interpreted and experienced by Chinese undergraduates. Two questions guided the study: 1) How do Chinese undergraduate students understand internationalization? and 2) How do they experience internationalization in their undergraduate studies? The research draws from philosopher Charles Taylor’s concept of “social imaginary” (Taylor, 2002, 2004, 2007). A social imaginary can emerge in myriad forms, but for this study we propose that our student participants’ accounts of internationalization align with what Stein and Andreotti (2015) call the “modern/colonial global imaginary.” On this view, a social imaginary naturalizes the dominant order and, by extension, delegitimizes derelict or incongruent orders that might otherwise compete for attention. For this study we conducted eleven interviews with students in science and education. The findings demonstrate that the participants critiqued the inequality of internationalization, namely, internationalization equates to Westernization, the superiority of Western epistemology, and elitization. For these students, internationalization as practiced is unbalanced and mainly unidirectional from developed to developing countries. The findings also indicate from the participants’ perspectives that internationalization promotes the hegemony of English. This study addresses knowledge gaps related to internationalization policy as undergraduate students’ voices are often not heard in internationalization initiatives. The findings of the research also provide useful insights into universities’ internationalization practices.
Stein, S., & Andreotti, O. (2015). Higher education and the modern/colonial global imaginary. Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies, 17(3), 173-181.
Taylor, C. (2002). Modern social imaginaries. Public Culture, 14(1), 91-124.
Taylor, C. (2004). Modern social imaginaries. Durham: Duke University Press.
Taylor, C. (2007). A secular age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.