Chinese postgraduate taught students' transitional experience in the UK: the role of social connections

Zhang, Jie (2020) Chinese postgraduate taught students' transitional experience in the UK: the role of social connections. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The UK has been one of the most desired destinations among international students. Among them, the Chinese student cohort represents the largest group in the UK. While aiming to benefit from the high-quality scholarship and invaluable experience arising from international contexts, it is widely acknowledged how these international students likewise make significant financial, economic, academic and cultural contributions to the host country. Previous studies have examined different aspects of Chinese international students’ experience in the UK (e.g. motivation, learning strategies, social adjustment and participation and attainment), but in-depth and comprehensive investigations of the experiences of Chinese international students for the duration of a Master’s programme are seemingly non-existent. This study has responded to recommendations from previous literature and studies that suggest future research in this area should consider employing a longitudinal design to examine international students’ adaptation process over time while focusing on one specific international student group (Smith & Khawaja, 2011; Zhang & Goodson, 2011). Therefore, the purpose of this research is to explore Chinese postgraduate taught (PGT) students’ transitional experience in the UK with two specific research questions: 1) how do Chinese postgraduate taught students adapt to a new academic and social culture during the transition process? and 2) how do their social connections influence their transitional experience in the UK?

This investigation characterises qualitative longitudinal research. Thirty-four Chinese PGT students at a research-intensive Scottish University participated in this study. Two sets of semi-structured interviews with the use of visual method techniques, i.e. photo-elicitation and diagrammatic-elicitation were conducted at the beginning of and near the end of the one-year Master’s programme. With the phenomenological focus of this research investigation, an inductive approach, i.e. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was employed for the data analysis. The combination of the reflective and in-depth understanding from this longitudinal study offers distinctive and broad insights into Chinese international PGT students’ complex transitional experience in the UK. This features the intertwined academic, social, linguistic and psychological experiences as well as observed changes and reflections when initial and latter experiences are compared. By using Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a theoretical lens, this study aims to offer useful conceptual contributions for a deeper understanding of the needs specific to Chinese PGT students and at the practical level, offer invaluable insights for how these needs from the beginning to the end of their educational journeys can be addressed. Additionally, by adopting the functional model of the friendship network, the research findings present a comprehensive picture of their social connections – these connections become a vital component of their overall experience and, in turn, is linked to how their hierarchy of needs is subsequently met. Altogether, this research has endeavoured to address some of the important gaps when investigating Chinese PGT students’ experience in the UK by using a longitudinal approach combined with visual methods and the use of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis in order to offer a complex, diverse and dynamic picture of Chinese PGT students’ experience in the UK. Such an understanding can serve as a catalyst for a greater appreciation of this specific international student group, but it can also provide some invaluable insights in understanding other similar groups. A greater and deeper understanding of international students is arguably indispensable for Higher Education Institutions’ strategies. This can play a major contributory role in their ongoing attempts to create better quality, more meaningful international student experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Chinese international students, intercultural experience.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Elliot, Dr Dely and Fuller, Dr Kara Makara
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Miss JIE ZHANG
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81509
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 13:12
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2020 16:29

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