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Outward and Inward Movement, Job-Seeking Process and Labour Market Outcomes: A Comparison between Chinese International Students Seeking Master’s Degrees in the UK and Their Counterparts at Home

HU, XIANAN (2024) Outward and Inward Movement, Job-Seeking Process and Labour Market Outcomes: A Comparison between Chinese International Students Seeking Master’s Degrees in the UK and Their Counterparts at Home. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF (PhD Thesis-- Xianan Hu) - Accepted Version


Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in the labour market outcomes of internationally mobile students. However, little analysis exists beyond Europe and the USA, and most of them have focused on credit-mobile students rather than full-degree seekers. As the largest exporter of international students, China sends many talents overseas for further studies every year, and the number of students studying abroad has been expanding rapidly in recent years. The increasing popularisation of studying abroad is underpinned by a combination of supply and demand for education and resource allocation, two-way push and pull factors from sending and receiving countries, and personal pursuits. However, after completing their studies, returning students are also rising. Most of them are driven by policy incentives and economic and culture-related considerations. Nevertheless, their job-seeking process and labour market outcomes still need to be researched. It is essential to explore how they find employment after returning home and whether their skills and networks accumulated at higher education institutions abroad secure job attainment and high salaries.

This study aims to bring a whole picture of Chinese international students’ outward and inward movement. It compares career aspirations and labour market outcomes in the home job market of Chinese international students seeking master’s degrees in the UK to their counterparts with domestic degrees. It also includes the discussion of studying abroad intention and motivation, obstacles working abroad, and the hidden factors that impact individuals’ decisions. In addition, the job-seeking channels and the mobilisation of social capital in the job-hunt process are included as well.

A survey was conducted regarding the first employment upon graduation between December 2019 and March 2020 among more than 32 higher education institutions. The total sample size is 1420, including 438 postgraduates registered in master’s programmes (yet to graduate) and 982 postgraduates who graduated between 2016 and 2019. The regression analysis examines the relationship between studying abroad and graduates’ academic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Second, it clarifies how mobile status, demographic and educational background, human capital and social capital predict the likelihood of employment, monthly income and job satisfaction. Results show that those from higher social origins and with better academic backgrounds are more inclined to study abroad. A foreign diploma has beneficial and unfavourable consequences on the labour market. Graduates with master’s degrees from abroad encounter tremendous obstacles while joining the workforce. Their job satisfaction levels are much lower than home graduates, but they earn more wages than their non-mobile peers. Adequate employment information, career support services and internship opportunities may help mobile graduates avoid unemployment dilemmas. The income premium of mobile graduates may be partly explained by the selectivity of social origin and academic background.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:International student mobility; Chinese international students; full-degree mobility; postgraduate education; labour market outcome.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 May 2024 12:06

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