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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Retaining Chinese Students After Graduation


International students are becoming an increasingly important part of higher education within the U.S.  Researcher Xin Liu delves into Chinese student needs when studying in the U.S. and what they need to consider staying local upon graduation (2013). As American companies turn more international in focus and desire to penetrate the Asian market such international students become a priority due to their specific cultural knowledge and contributions to the human capital mix within companies.

China has approximately 284,000 students that live abroad to study in 2010 (Mu, 2011). They are becoming a significant source of college recruitment. With the growth of such students the ability to socially live in the U.S. and have proper social connections is a major concern when making decisions to stay in the U.S. or return back to China. Chinese students weigh and balance the competing interests such as friend’s opinions, career prospects, and formal school guidance.

Because Chinese students pay significantly more than nationals in higher education they are concerned about their job prospects upon graduation.  It is important for them to find jobs right away if they are to be retained within the country. These jobs should offer an opportunity for career growth and development.

Another major concern is their personal social networks. When Chinese students leave school they have some fear of where their proper social fit will reside. If there are other Chinese students within the area or they have social outlets they are more likely to stay. The quicker and easier they can make that transition the more likely they will decide to seek local opportunities; especially if they put down new social roots.

The researcher used ten in-depth interviews with various Chinese students to come to conclusions. Even though the study was not wide it did provide support for existing research. The research found that both the social network and the economic opportunities are of critical importance. Both help in encouraging international students to stay within the U.S.

Students indicated that their primary consideration was their social networks. In China people must navigate a complex network of people. Opportunities are often based upon who someone knows. Therefore, the importance of friends and social networks is critical to the Chinese mindset.

Likewise, what did attract them to the U.S. were additional opportunities. Unless such students have jobs already waiting for them they were interested in opportunities whereby they could grow and develop quickly. Despite this interest, it should be noted that the Chinese mindset is to put others in the social network above oneself so this enthusiasm may diminish without support.

Stability and growth opportunities are primary concerns when making employment decisions. Graduates are worried about the ability to stay with a company and grow with them more than the actual starting salary. To be laid-off a short-time after hire or not having growth opportunities causes a level of damage to Chinese graduates who often stay with employers for a long-time. 

Beyond this study it is possible to draw some interesting concepts. It is not enough to provide Chinese graduates with a freshly minted degree and expect them to stay within the country and use that degree to benefit society. Because of very personal social reasons they may desire to move back home. Those universities, companies, and public administrators who want to retain high quality international students will need to provide a level of social connection before graduation and help such candidates successfully transition to the new environment.

The study was completed from the mindset of a traditional university. In the online world the student may not live in the U.S. and a social transition is not needed. However, the report indicates that job prospects are important. Therefore, having strong connections between industry and academia can further help in not only creating relevancy for the degree but also maintaining fertile grounds for company recruitment.

Whether the goal is to hire international graduates in China to bring to the U.S. for job placement or help them find employment locally it is important to understand how the career services department may enhance the universities longer term goals of industry-academia partnership. Providing students additional time to use career services and updating those online services with relevant jobs can go a long way in placement statistics. Furthermore, it may become a new source international industry partnership as well as an opportunity to make stronger connections with multinational corporations.

Liu, X. (2013). Career concerns of Chinese business students in the United States: a qualitative study. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 17 (3).

Mu, L. (2011). China sends more students abroad, absorbs record high. People's Daily Online. Retrieved October 9th, 2013 from http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/7307378.html

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