From Female Graduates to Female Insurance Agents: Educationally Channeled Labour Mobility from Mainland China to Hong Kong

Research highlighted

Zhou, S. & Song, J. (2022). From Female Graduates to Female Insurance Agents: Educationally Channeled Labor Mobility from Mainland China to Hong Kong. Journal of Chinese Women’s Studies, 171(3). Available at:


In the increasingly interwoven global trends of educational mobility and labor migration, a growing number of young women have obtained higher education and acquired greater labor mobility, and have been involved in service work that is more professional and with higher job status. Nevertheless, educational mobility and labor migration are commonly regarded as two independent research fields. Education migration is often related to a promotion of employment opportunities for young people, which provides chances of social upward mobility for men and women. For labor migration studies from a gender perspective, female migrants are often found to concentrate in labor-intensive and low-paid service work. Little attention has been paid to the field where the two topics are related. In Hong Kong, due to the cross-border expansion of the insurance industry in recent years, many female graduates from mainland China have benefited from their cultural capital and cross-border social connections and have been recruited as insurance agents. This study examines the gendered experiences of cross-border labor mobility of these atypical skilled migrants and professional service workers.

This study adopted a qualitative research approach based on in-depth interviews with 32 female graduates who had mainland backgrounds and worked as insurance agents in Hong Kong. The study also draws on participant observation of their work and life, as well as online ethnography about how individuals and companies presented such cross-border labor mobility on social media. To examine women’s educationally channeled labor mobility, this study focuses on how they were recruited and why they chose to become insurance agents. The findings indicate that Hong Kong’s cross-border insurance business tended to recruit highly educated women with mainland backgrounds as professional, independent, and elite women, meanwhile with an emphasis on their patient and empathetic femininity. Such narratives restructured and reinforced gender stereotypes prevalent in service work. These highly educated women were able to utilize human capital and cross-border freedom to pursue greater autonomy in career choice against the control of natal families in places of origin. Nevertheless, these young women also faced a double marginality in the host labor market regarding gender and geography, and they still needed to balance family obligations and career aspirations over the life course. Women’s cross-border mobility helped them to pursue individualistic aspirations and negotiate new career pathways, which challenged traditional gender stereotypes in low-end feminized service work, but their professional and independent workplace images were still constrained by the gendered division of labor and structural inequalities in public and private spheres.

By focusing on female graduates in the cross-border insurance industry, this study demonstrates how the intersection of educational mobility and labor migration can provide new employment opportunities for highly educated women. To some extent, women’s cross-border participation in professional service work has undermined traditional gender role expectations, but their personal choices have not formed a fundamental challenge to gender and structural inequalities in the labor market and domestic spheres. Bridging the two research traditions on educational mobility and labor migration, this study suggests incorporating women’s education-based resource and horizon into the study of their working experience in the host labor market, and linking women’s diverse career choices with their evolving gendered self-positioning processes. The new perspectives can add to a better understanding of how women’s migration brings about new economic opportunities as well as social pressure, and contribute to a more comprehensive reflection on the gender and social implications of women’s evolving career choices.

Author Bio

Siyuan Zhou (周思媛),
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Ms. ZHOU Siyuan (周思媛) is a Ph.D. candidate in Gender Studies Programme and the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include gender and work, migration, and female entrepreneurship. Her doctoral project is about “doing gender” and “doing business” between Hong Kong and mainland China among female IANG insurance agents (Email:

Dr. Jing Song (宋婧),
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Dr. Jing Song (宋婧) is an Associate Professor in Gender Studies Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and an Associate Researcher (by courtesy) at Shenzhen Research Institute, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include family, gender, work, urbanization, migration and China’s market transition. She has published in China Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary China, Urban Studies, Journal of Rural Studies, Work Employment and Society, Population Space and Place, China Review, Journal of Sociology, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Housing Studies, Asian Anthropology, and so on. Her book Gender and Employment in Rural China was published in 2017 by Routledge (Email:

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun) Bian

Reimagining Chinese diasporas in a transnational world: toward a new research agenda

Shibao Guo (2022) Reimagining Chinese diasporas in a transnational world: toward a new research agenda, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 48:4, 847-872, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1983958.

Prof. Shibao Guo from the University of Calgary guest edited a special issue for the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies – Chinese Diaspora Studies in a Transnational World – which was published in Volume 48, Issue 4, 2022. This special issue examines the changing nature of the Chinese diasporas in a transnational world and its concomitant implications for Chinese diaspora studies internationally. In the research agenda-setting Introduction, Prof. Guo theorizes the new patterns of Chinese diasporas which can be characterized by unprecedented hypermobility, hyperdiversity, and hyperconnectivity. Such characterizations depict the global dispersal of overseas Chinese as one of the most hyperdiverse groups with substantial sub-group differences that distinguish it from most other diasporas. This special issue consists of six empirically-based articles on Chinese diasporas studies, from a variety of disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives, by scholars from different parts of the world. Their perspectives have contributed to the existing Chinese diasporas literature and the interdisciplinary fields of ethnic, migration and mobility studies. Here are the links to the special issue:

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies: Vol 48, No 4 (

Full article: Reimagining Chinese diasporas in a transnational world: toward a new research agenda (

Author Bio

Professor Shibao Guo, University of Calgary, Canada

Dr. Shibao Guo is Professor at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. Over the past twenty years as a transnational academic and scholar, Dr. Guo has developed research expertise in the areas of transnational migration, Chinese diasporas studies, ethnic and race relations, and comparative and international education. His research has been funded by a number of organizations, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada; International Organization for Migration; and Education International. Prof. Guo has numerous publications including books, journal articles, and book chapters. His latest books include: Decolonising lifelong learning in the context of transnational migration (Routledge, 2020), Immigration, racial and ethnic studies in 150 years of Canada: Retrospects and prospects (Brill|Sense, 2018). He is former president of Canadian Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) and the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC). Currently he is co-editor of Canadian Ethnic Studies and two book series for Brill|Sense Publishers: Transnational Migration and Education and Spotlight on China.

Managing editor: Tong Meng

Mobile educational space and imaginative travellers in-situ: A case study of a UK international branch campus

Research highlighted

Jingran Yu (2022) Mobile educational space and imaginative travellers in-situ: A case study of a UK international branch campus in ChinaSocial & Cultural Geography, DOI: 10.1080/14649365.2022.2055780

An increased awareness has emerged within academia of how international student mobility (ISM) intensifies differentiation within global educational geographies, consolidating the educational power of certain institutions within specific countries, and consequently entrenching and sometimes even creating socio-spatial inequalities (e.g., Brooks & Waters, 2011; Findlay et al., 2012; Waters, 2012). In contrast, transnational education (TNE), ‘in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based’ (Council of Europe, 2002), enables students to receive international education in situ. Instead of the corporeal movement of students, in TNE, it is the education provider that is on the move, incorporating various interdependent movements of educational resources, including teaching materials, knowledge, information, and even staff and institutions. Thus, TNE seems to hold great potential for promoting the reconfiguration of educational geographies through its important role in connecting educational institutions and participants across different places and influencing the (re)distribution of educational resources and power across global space (Leung & Waters, 2013). However, compared to ISM, TNE remains under-researched. The few empirical studies that have explored this topic have concluded that its value has been fundamentally compromised owing to the lack of corporeal mobility (e.g., Waters, 2017, 2018).

This paper challenges the predominant representation of TNE students merely in terms of their corporeal immobility and problematizes the neglect of spatiality and materiality of international branch campuses (IBCs) in extant studies. Based on a case study of a UK international branch campus in China, it incorporates interview narratives and ethnographic observations to reveal the students’ experiences and imaginations, and to delineate the unique texture of the spatiality of the campus. It is worth noticing that IBCs in China are required to take the form of ‘Chinese-Foreign Cooperative Universities’, i.e. ‘joint-venture IBCs’ in the expanded definition provided by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (Garrett et al., 2016). The power balance between the Chinese and foreign partners has profound influences on the spatiality of the campus. In this case study, this power balance between the Chinese and British partners has resulted in the unique layout of the university campus which is roughly divided into two halves: the Academic Area, controlled by the British partner, and the Living Area, where the Chinese partner is mainly in charge. 

In this paper, I present the case-study IBC as an infrastructure of (im)mobilities, which is both locally embedded and transnationally connected. On the one hand, this paper explores how transnational imaginations are enabled by the immobile materiality of the IBC in three dimensions: the material space, the virtual space, and the relational space. On the other hand, informed by the perceived–conceived–lived conceptual triad (Lefebvre, 1991/2014), this paper investigates Chinese students’ imaginative spaces by looking at how they perceive, experience, and conceive various spaces, on the basis of which they develop a sense of (not) belonging. This is where issues emerge around ‘whose space’ it is when the control over space is challenged. IBC space and its imagination, as intended by the TNE institution, may not always coincide with the ideas of the students and their imaginative space. At times, the two may collide. 

As the students embody transnational imaginations and mobilities in situ, they are transformed into what I perceive as imaginative travellers, who never physically travel abroad but whose being and belonging have been constantly informed and negotiated in relation to their everyday transnational experiences. Travelling between two different spaces, the Academic Area and the Living Area, the national and the transnational setting, has become a daily routine for the students, contributing to their embodiment of transnational mobilities in an imaginative form and giving shape to the transnational imaginative space they conceive. Informed by their own predispositions, students have developed transnational spatial imaginations, according to which they make differentiated judgements about the different styles in the material environment they inhabit and develop a sense of (non)belongingness to different cultures through their spatial experiences. In everyday spatial practice, imagined and actual spaces may sometimes reinforce and sometimes negate each other. Students then develop a sense of ‘our’ and ‘their’ space – a sense of belonging and not belonging – in their perceptions, experiences, and conceptions. This may have coloured their perceptions, leading to a value-laden appreciation of the space in the Academic Area as well as their simultaneous dislike of the space in the Living Area.

The findings have teased out the ways in which transnational imaginations are enabled by immobile materiality of the IBC, and how students consequently construct their imaginative space, revealing the dynamic interrelations between imagination, materiality, and (im)mobility in (transnational) educational spaces. As international student mobility (in the sense of corporeal mobility) has intensified, and sometimes even created socio-spatial inequalities in global educational geographies, it is important for scholars to pay attention to the imaginative mobilities enabled by TNE because ‘imagination is an essentially creative act that facilitates people’s ability to move beyond structural imbalances of power and economic constraints’ (Salazar, 2020, p. 773). Indeed, imaginative mobility may not be a substitute for corporeal mobility, but may instead change the very nature of being co-present. Accordingly, our views on the emplacement of education, as either here (domestic education) or there (international education), also need to expand to include educational spaces that can be both here and there, that is, trans-national. Contributing to the early discussions about IBCs as infrastructures of (im)mobility, what is novel in this paper is that it offers detailed depictions of the imaginative process, in which spatial imagination and imaginative space (re)produce each other, and are complicated by the various sources of power at play. Drawing upon thick ethnographic data, this paper offers a unique case study of a Chinese-Foreign Cooperative University in which the power balance between the British and Chinese partners has profound implications on the uneven spatiality of the campus. It is important to pay attention to the ‘unevenness of imagination flows’ (Lipura & Collins, 2020), which is subject to political economy in the wider sociocultural context, in which the mythological ‘West’ is often considered ‘legitimate’ and imbued with much higher symbolic value than ‘the rest’. Students, whom I call ‘imaginative travellers’, have tended to display a proximity to ‘the West’, which is physically distant and where most of them have never been, in contrast to ‘the Chinese’ where they are actually located but from which they are imaginatively distant. This may reinforce the existing symbolic power of the West in the global stratification of knowledge.

Authors’ Bio

Dr Jingran Yu (余婧然),
Xiamen University, China

Dr. Jingran Yu (余婧然) is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Education, Xiamen University, China, and an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED), the University of Manchester, the United Kingdom. She received a doctorate degree in Sociology from the University of Manchester, and won the British Educational Research Association (BERA) 2021 Doctoral Thesis Award for her thesis. Her research interests lie at the intersection of sociology, education, and human geography, with a focus on internationalisation of higher education and socio-spatial (im)moblities. She can be contacted at: or

Managing editor: Lisa(Zhiyun) Bian

Benefits of studying in China: International students from top-tier Chinese universities ‘spill the beans’

Research highlighted 

Singh, J.K.N. (2022). Benefits of studying in China: International students from top-tier Chinese universities ‘spill the beans’, Journal of Further and Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/0309877X.2022.2052822

International education is a fast-changing phenomenon in global higher education. For decades, China has been the ‘sending’ country of international students to English-speaking countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. By the twenty-first century, the role has reversed and China is one of the fastest growing ‘receiving’ countries of international students. In 2018, there were a total of 492,185 international students from 196 countries pursuing their studies in 1,004 higher education institutions; the majority came from Asia (59.95%) followed by Africa (16.57%), Europe (14.96%), America (7.26%) and Oceania (1.27%) (Chinese Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, 2018). Given the exponential growth of international students in China, understanding the advantages of studying there is under-researched. 

Given the expansion of international student numbers, limited scholarly articles have focused on the advantages of studying in China, an emerging international education hub, based on the voices of international students themselves (Jiani 2017; Wen and Hu 2019). To respond to this empirical gap, this paper investigates the benefits of seeking international education in China, based on the lived experiences of international students. The main research question is ‘What are the anticipated benefits of seeking international higher education for international students enrolled at two prestigious universities in China?’ Against this backdrop, 30 semi-structured qualitative interviews with international students from Asia, Africa and Western countries enrolled at two prestigious universities in Beijing and Hubei Province were conducted.

The study results have highlighted three main benefits from studying in China: 1) enrichment of future employment possibilities; 2) mastering Mandarin language; and 3) development of knowledge, skills and experiences. These benefits are not mutually exclusive; they have similar end goals to improve development of students’ home countries (mainly in Asia and Africa).

Employment prospects

The principal benefit of studying in China is employment prospects. Many students wish to stay in China upon graduation for employment purpose. International students are very confident that they will secure jobs in China as opposed to their home or third countries. They view that employment opportunities for them relatively poorer in their home countries.Some reasons include relatively low pay and limited prospects in gaining employment compared to China’s labour market. The growth of China’s economy brings more job opportunities with higher salary packages and requires highly skilled migrants to support that growth. 

On the other side, many students, particularly from Asia and Africa, aspire to contribute to their home countries through employment opportunities. Many mentioned that they wanted to work in Chinese companies, the government sector or even return to their previous, home-country positions. This is because there are a lot of Chinese companies mushrooming in their respective home countries and these students want to contribute to their home countries by emulating China success especially in economy. 

Mandarin language

The second benefit is learning Mandarin. Many students, especially undergraduates, are interested in learning this language. Firstly, students mainly from Asia, Europe and South America believe that Mandarin will an important business/trade language between their home countries and China. Students from Asia and Africa wanted to learn Mandarin because they perceived themselves as future ambassadors or leaders representing their country of origin in future trade dealings and business investments with China. For students majoring in Chinese, it is vital to learn Mandarin in a Chinese university to obtain in-depth assistance from native speakers and educators, as opposed to their home country. They also have the chance to immerse themselves in the Chinese community and understand Chinese culture.

Developing knowledge, skills and experience in China

The third benefit is to develop significant knowledge, skills and experience for their career development. Students, especially undergraduates from Africa, are amazed how rapidly China has grown in terms of economy, management, business and investment (Jiani 2017). Based on this rapid economic development, students wanted to learn the business ‘tricks of the trade’, economic policies, management and investment skills so that they could replicate that learning in their home countries. Singh and Jamil (2021) reported that international students especially from the under-developed nations in Asia and Africa wanted to contribute to their community via application of knowledge, technical and research skills acquired in Malaysia in positions such as university lecturers, researchers and trainers.

An overarching benefit of studying in China, based on international students’ lived experiences, is relating to their personal intrinsic motivations and benefits which is geared towards improving and strengthening their career and employment opportunities through meaningfully contributing to their home country’s social and economic development by gaining employment in the government sector, in Chinese companies in home countries or returning to previous employment. Specifically, in home-country employment, students contribute by applying business/trade educational knowledge, management, investment and soft skills, as well as international educational experiences. Later benefits of international education include employment opportunities in China due its rapid economic development and wide job opportunities, as well as learning Mandarin for future business and trade dealings with China and reconnection to cultural identity. 

Hence, the findings of this study have contributed to the international education literature as the findings have established important nuances of key personalised motivations and benefits of studying in China and therefore extended the modified push-pull theory in relation to economic, social, cultural, career (employment) and educational outcomes that mostly advantage home-country development. These findings are also opposing the framework of pull or push factors that only focused on external factors instead of personalised aspects to gain international education.   


Jiani, M. A. (2017). Why and how international students choose mainland China as a higher education study abroad destination, Higher Education, 74 (4), 563–579. doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0066-0 

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (2018). Statistical report on international students in China for 2018. Accessed 19 October 2021.

Singh, J. K. N. & Jamil, H. (2021). International education and meaningful contributions to society: Exploration of postgraduate international students’ perspectives studying in a Malaysian research university, International Journal of Educational Development, 81. doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2020.102331 

Authors’ Bio

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh
La Trobe University

Dr Jasvir Kaur Nachatar Singh is an award-winning Senior Lecturer at the Department of Management and Marketing, La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University, Australia. In 2020, Dr Singh received an international teaching recognition from Advance HE, UK as a Fellow (FHEA). In 2018, Dr Singh received two La Trobe University Teaching Awards and Best Presenter Award at the Global Higher Education Forum, Malaysia. Dr Singh’s research expertise is in higher education with a particular interest exploring international students’ lived experiences of academic success, employability, career aspirations and learning experiences. Dr Singh also explores lived experiences of skilled migrants and international academics. Dr Singh has published numerous articles in high impact journals and has presented at various national and international higher education conferences. In 2021, Dr Singh was appointed as a Research Fellow at the Malaysian National Higher Education Research Institute. She can be contacted at

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun) Bian

Rethinking Internationalization at Home from a System Perspective: Evidence from China’s Higher Education Institutions

Research highlighted:

Zhang, Y. (2022). Rethinking internationalization at home from a system perspective: Evidence from China’s higher education institutions. International Journal of Chinese Education, 11(1), 2212585X221095881.


This study explores the strengths and more importantly the limitations of the current research of Internationalization at Home (IaH) in relation to equity. To do this, I draw on a survey of Chinese university students to examine 1) the relationship between their intercultural interaction with international students, partly operationalizing IaH, and their intercultural competence; 2) compares the effects of intercultural interaction and study abroad on students’ intercultural competence; and 3) examines the extent to which students’ opportunities for intercultural interaction with international students depends on the type of their institutional affiliation. It finds that study abroad, interaction with international students and learning foreign languages are positively associated with students’ intercultural competence. However, the effects of study abroad and intercultural interaction do not differ and are not additive. It also finds that students from prestigious universities are more likely to have high intercultural interaction with international students. The findings confirm the strength of IaH as an equitable approach at the institutional level. However, it raises questions on the impact of systemic inequities on IaH and calls for rethinking the objective of IaH for all students from a system perspective.

Equity and Internationalization at Home

Internationalization has long been recognized as an institutional imperative to promote international research collaboration, enhance global ranking and reputation, and improve students’ intercultural understanding. One of the most important activities in internationalization is student mobility, including outbound mobility, such as students studying abroad for degree programs or short-terms exchanges, and inbound mobility in the form of institutions recruiting international students justified by financial and cultural benefits brought by international students.

Yet, what concerns the field of internationalization is the elitist nature of student mobility. Globally, only 2.48% of the students in higher education institutions had the opportunity to study abroad (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2021). In response to this concern, the concept of Internationalization at Home (IaH) was proposed and implemented at the institutional level, in the hope to bring international experience to all students, including students who do not have the opportunity to study abroad. IaH is defined as “the purposeful integration of international and intercultural dimensions into the formal and informal curriculum for all students, within domestic learning environments” (Beelen & Jones, 2015). IaH is often regarded as an approach that equalize the field of internationalization. However, most research on IaH focus on single institutions or comparison of a few institutions. It might be true that the IaH approach addresses inequity issues in internationalization at the institutional level. However, institutions may differ significantly in their internationalization resources due to systemic inequity, which may result in students from various institutions benefiting differently from IaH. 

The Chinese Context

China is a case that this article uses to illustrate that the current understanding of IaH in relations to equity may be limited at the system level. China’s higher education system is highly stratified. One example is the Double First-Rate project, only around 5-6% of the Chinese institutions are designated to receive ample financial resources from the government to achieve the goals of becoming world-class universities or housing world-class disciplines. These universities are also largely protected from enrolments expansion to ensure the quality of education at the universities. These universities tend to have more resources for their internationalization activities, which is closely linked to the goal of becoming world-class universities. Alarmingly, top universities in China also tend to enrol students from better social-economic backgrounds. This dynamic raises concerns that institutions differ in their capacity to internationalize the campus that benefit their students.

This Study and Implications

This article explores the strengths and more importantly the limitations of the current research of Internationalization at Home (IaH) in relation to equity from both institutional and systemic perspectives. To do this, a survey of Chinese university students was conducted with the following research questions: 1) What is the relationship between Chinese university students’ intercultural interaction with international students and their intercultural competence? 2) How does the effect of intercultural interaction compare to that of study abroad? 3) To what extent students’ institutional affiliation explain their opportunities for intercultural interaction?  Chinese university students’ intercultural interaction with international students operationalizes one aspect of IaH. Comparing the effect of intercultural interaction and study abroad helps us understand whether IaH benefits students’ intercultural development from institutional perspective. Moreover, examining the impact of institutional affiliation on intercultural interaction helps us understand whether IaH truly equalizes the internationalization field from a system perspective.

Two important findings come out of this study. First, as seen in Table 2 from the published paper, intercultural interaction is positively related to student intercultural competence and its effect is not statistically different from that of study abroad. This finding confirms that IaH does benefit students’ intercultural development and there is no evidence that students’ intercultural understanding must be developed through the often-expensive study abroad opportunities. This finding suggests that students can alternatively choose to participate in IaH activities on campus for intercultural development, which is much more affordable. This study only focuses on intercultural interaction between domestic and international students, one aspect of IaH. Future research could consider how different aspects of IaH, such as international curriculum, relates to students intercultural understanding.

Another important finding is that students from prestigious universities are more likely to have more opportunities for intercultural interaction, as seen from Table 3 of the published paper. This corroborates with the hypothesis that system inequity issues may affect the objective of IaH benefiting all students. More prestigious universities tend to have more resources either financially or in terms of human capital to create opportunities for IaH and support the implementation of IaH. This finding is important as it raises concerns of how IaH can achieve its goals of benefiting all students, if operating in a system of inequities. This finding calls for research on IaH to consider incorporating systemic factors in the research and rethink IaH from a system perspective.

Authors’ Bio

You Zhang (张又)
University of Toronto

You Zhang is a PhD Candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), at the University of Toronto. Her current research focuses on international student mobility, higher education regionalization, China-Africa relations in higher education, and anti-Asian racism and international students. She has a geographic interest in the East and Southeast Asia region. She co-founded the East Asia Special Interest Group under the Comparative and International Development Education Center at OSIE, where with her colleagues, they organize activities and symposiums to raise awareness of educational issues related to the Asian Diaspora and the Asian region. Her recent research has appeared in Higher Education, Higher Education Quarterly, Canadian Journal of Higher Education, and the Journal of International Students. She can be reached at or her twitter @YouZhangYoyo

Managing editor: Lisa (Zhiyun) Bian