Studying overseas and employability: Perceptions of Chinese international students at an English University

Xiaye Huang

Xiaye Huang, University of Exeter

The primary interest of this research arises from the author’s experience in studying in UK. The author witnessed international students tried to capture more values out of the degree when they were studying in the UK for a postgraduate degree. Additionally, employability becomes an increasingly important agenda for higher education since the Dearing Report. Therefore, this research was set up to explore the Chinese international student’s self-perceived employability. The researcher conducted photo-elicitation interviews for capturing students’ experience in the UK and their perceptions concerning the experience. Participants firstly selected photographs that they perceived as most representative for their international study experience in the UK, at a southwest university. Then they talked about the meaning of these photographs in an interview. Eventually, 11 students agreed to take part in the research; 10 of the participants selected 66 photographs to represent their oversea studying experiences. The verbal and visual data related to each participant are analysed in order to identify themes emerging from the individual experience. After this, cross-case analysis allows identification of participants’ common themes in international study experience and employability. Finally, these points emerged from analysis are theorised. This research identified vital issues valued by Chinese international students concerning their employability. Participants highlighted that their master’s studies bring them essential skills such as subject-related skills and English proficiencies, qualifications including a master level degree and other certificates related to their subject area, and working, networking, attending events experience.

This research takes a holistic view of the UK-educated Chinese master student’s educational trajectories, highlighting Chinese student’s voices in terms of employability perceptions. By doing so, it provides an alternative way of understanding employability by incorporating the international student’s perspective, analysing interview and photograph data into four layers. The author identifies skills, qualifications and experiences are highly valued by the participant when they evaluated their oversea studies. Chinese student’s employability outcome is consistent with graduate capital theory, which confirms international student’s development in human, cultural, social, identity and psychological capitals, in their educational experience in the UK university.

Author Biography

Xiaye Huang is a PhD candidate in Education at the University of Exeter. She will complete her PhD project in March 2020. Before this, she studied at Zhejiang University of Technology, got two bachelor’s degrees in educational technology (Software engineering speciality) and Business Administration.

Her PhD project focuses on Chinese student’s overseas study experience in UK higher education institutions, especially concerning their perceptions about employability. After completing the project, she will pursue her research in international education and educational technology.

Xiaye has taught mathematics and statistics at the Business School, University of Exeter since 2016. She got the Higher Education Academy associate fellow award in 2018. She is interested in teaching educational psychology, educational research method, applied statistics and other subject related to education, mathematics & statistics and software engineering.

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