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Durham e-Theses
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Empires of Knowledge: Chinese Students’ higher
education experience at X University, UK

LI, JIANGNAN (2023) Empires of Knowledge: Chinese Students’ higher
education experience at X University, UK.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Full text not available from this repository.
Author-imposed embargo until 29 June 2026.


I discuss the difficulties Chinese international students (CIS) met in their UK higher education and how far their understanding of knowledge has been transformed by such
experience from field research conducted at X University, UK, from 2017 to 2020. First, I flesh out the theoretical framework for the thesis: a view of power and knowledge influenced by Foucault and the interpretation of Chinese and western cultures in Sino-Hellenic studies. Second, I review the anthropological work on education, knowledge, and CIS to situate the basis and goals of the thesis. Third, I explore how legacies of thought in ancient and modern China and the transformation of higher education in the UK have influenced CIS’ overseas study. Fourth, I explore CIS’ life and social networking at X University, UK. Fifth, I explore CIS’ classroom learning experiences. I argue that students’ different reactions and attitudes toward the perceived confusion in classroom learning represent a collision between two ways of knowing: the traditional Chinese “sage style” and the Western “post-modern critical style”. Sixth, I explore research CIS’ study experience and demonstrate that the British and Chinese ways of PhD training suit students based on the specific experience of individuals. CIS still favour the “master’s family” tradition in Chinese research degree training after they studied in the UK.
Seventh, I explore CIS’ academic writing practice in the UK. I illustrate that the difficulties they experience in UK academic writing could be explained by the different patterns of thought and ways of communication or persuasion in the two cultures. I also present the third way of knowing which CIS are exposed: the “objectivistic” Western natural science style. I conclude that though modern Western natural science’s way of knowing is the dominant knowledge style today in China and the UK, it also has its limitations. A hegemonic “empire of knowledge” deserves to be reflected on, criticised, and replaced by “exchanges and mutual
learning” to inject fresh impetus into the development of human knowledge.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Jun 2023 09:20

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