22 SES 09 A, Internationalisation in Higher Education: Academic Staff
The biggest wave of overseas returnees. Ever since the reform and opening-up policy adopted in 1978, the number of Chinese going abroad for studying has been increasing, and it reached 608,400 in 2017. In the meantime, the Chinese government also has embarked on an effort to attract those overseas-trained Chinese talents back home. In the last 10 years, a growing number of Chinese students have been returning to China, with the number of reaching 480,900 in 2017.
The new initiative of building world-class universities.China has been endeavoring to build world-class universities. It initiated Project 211 and Project 985 respectively in the 1990s. Lately, itlaunched Double First-classInitiative, a national-wide initiative to build world-class universities and disciplines by the end of 2050. 42 universities and 465 disciplines were selected in the list of first-class universities and first-class disciplines respectively.
Role of returnee faculty in promoting the internationalization of Higher Education in China. Chinese universities exert themselves to upgrade their teaching and research facilities and provide more international courses. And of one of the most important ways to improve universities’ quality in teaching and research is to recruit world-renowned faculty and visiting scholars. Compared with foreign scholars recruited, Chinese scholars who received doctoral training abroad and returned have a better understanding of the teaching and research system at universities. In the meanwhile, the returned scholars are more familiar with the international academic practices than their home-trained colleagues, as they are equipped with discipline-specific knowledge, broadened horizons, intercultural competence, foreign language skills, and international networks. Accordingly, since the last two decades, more empirical research has shed light on returned scholars’ post-return status and experience.
Theoretical framework and Literature Review
This is part of an on-going research project, aiming at going beyond the approach of "transnational capital", which was first suggested by Rosen and Zweig (2003), and introducing a broader categorization along with Bourdieu's (1986) concept of capital, especially cultural capital. This research explores how Chinese returnee faculty members apply the “capital” they have achieved overseas and brought back to the current teaching and research areas in the “field” of the higher education system in China, and how they adjust to the field of Chinese higher education.
Literature on Chinese returnees, in general, can be mainly divided into the following categories: (1) Discussion about the brain drain, brain gain and brain circulation of Chinese returnees from the perspective of international academic mobility, as overseas experience has been regarded as transnational human capital, transitional capital, or brain bridging, both China and the host countries have conducted research to probe the human capital on this issue. One of the focuses is on the Chinese Ph.D. students’ intention of staying at the host country or motivation of returning. (2) Empirical research on graduates’ returning experience, regarding their career path, management, as well as the impact of the overseas study on their current work and life.
Returnee faculty members are one of the important group of returnees in China and current research shows that, like their counterparts in other countries, Chinese scholars, after returning, meet challenges in adjusting to the specific “field” of the Chinese universities, such as academic integration, professional and career development. Thus, their teaching and research experience at universities needs to be looked into.
This research scrutinizes Chinese scholars’ current experience working at universities after returning, by exploring (1) how they evaluate their performance in teaching and research (competitive research grants and publication) respectively; (2) how does the experience achieved overseas shape their post-return experiences at Chinese universities; and (3) what kind of factors will have an impact on their adjustment to work?
A mixed method has been implemented in exploring the research question. This research aims at exploring returned faculty’s self-evaluated research performance from the perspective of cross-cultural readjustment. 1,417 returned faculty from 41 world-class universities attended the survey. The quantitative and qualitative data are processed by SPSS 20.0 and MAXQDA 12 respectively. Instrument (1) Quantitative research: a self-compiled questionnaire focusing on both returned scholars’ previous learning experience overseas and their current experience of teaching and research at Chinese universities. (2) Qualitative research: semi-structured interviews are implemented to probe the returnees’ teaching and research experience at Chinese university. Participants and procedures This paper is part of a broader research project conducted from 2016 to 2017 that probes academic returnees’ adjustment at top universities in China. In this study, “academic returnees” are defined as those scholars who have obtained a doctoral degree overseas or have at least two-year successive working experience abroad. (1) Quantitative research: authors searched the “academic returnees” by browsing faculty members’ curricula vitae (CVs) on the homepage of the 42 universities according to the criteria and definition of academic returnees in this research, and reviewed department by department, school by school. Altogether, 10,548 entries of academic returnees’ CVs from 41 universities were collected (note, the original intention was this research was to collect all 42 universities of the “first class universities”, while during the CV search period, the homepage of one university was under-construction). Authors spread out the online questionnaire by sending invitation letter and link to the returnees’ email address. After three rounds, this research receives 1,307 valid replies among 10,548, with a response rate of 12.4%. Among the 1,307 returnees (male=993; female=314) completed the questionnaire, 398 (30.5%) of the participants are in the age group of “below 35-year old”, 530 (40.6%) are in the age group of “36-45-year old”, while another 379 (28.9%) are in the age group of “over 46-year old”. 361 (27.6%) participants are in social science and humanities, while 946 (72.4%) are in science and engineering. Regarding academic titles, 620 are professors, 439 associate are professors, and 238 are assistant professors. (2) Qualitative research: by employing maximum difference sampling and intensity sampling strategy, authors conduct semi-structured interviews with 16 academic faculty members in China. They are composed of 8 male and 8 female returnees. 6 are in the discipline of science and engineering, and 10 are in social science and humanities.
(1) Post-Return adjustment. Concerning teaching, both quantitative and qualitative data indicate that academic returnees have a relatively high self-evaluation on their teaching performance. The survey reveals that 74.5% of the respondents are satisfied with their teaching ability, and the qualitative results further echoes the qualitative data, as interviewees hold that they play an important role in lecturing the international courses, in providing the latest materials at class, and in introducing more seminar-based courses. They firmly believe that thanks to their academic training abroad, they have their strengths, compared with their local-trained colleagues. However, compared with the adjustment to the role of teaching, returnees have encountered more difficulty in their research performance, and have conservative self-evaluation on their research performance. Take their research performance for an example, 53.2% are satisfied with their performance in obtaining the competitive research grants, while 55.3% are satisfied with their publication. The returnees admitted that they were not familiar with the Chinese system of academic discourse, due to the fact that they were several years absent from Chinese academic environment. And this become a main challenge for them in terms of publishing papers in Chinese language and competitive research funding. (2) The role returnees playing and factors influencing the adjustment. Returned scholars have made substantial contributions to the development of teaching and research at the Chinese universities, and this has an important impact on the internationalization of Higher Education in China (e.g. increase the number of research papers, research collaboration, international courses in English, etc.). (3) The multivariable linear regression model indicates that factors such as the scholars previous adjustment experience overseas, the degree of their approval of the current working environment, and the frequency of conducting research collaboration with their former supervisors and colleagues abroad have a positive impact on their research performance.
Ai, B., & Wang, L. (2017). Homeland integration: An academic returnee’s experiences in Chinese universities. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), 1609406917696741 Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In Richardson, J., Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, Westport, CT: Greenwood, pp. 241–258 Gu, Q., & Schweisfurth, M. (2015). Transnational connections, competences and identities: Experiences of Chinese international students after their return ‘home’. British Educational Research Journal, 41(6), 947-970. Hao, J., Wen, W., & Welch, A. (2016). When sojourners return: Employment opportunities and challenges facing high-skilled Chinese returnees. Asian and Pacific Migration Journal, 25(1), 22-40. Gill. S. (2010). The homecoming: an investigation into the effect that studying overseas had on Chinese postgraduates’ life and work on their return to China, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40:3, 359-376. Yang, Y., Volet, S., & Mansfield, C. (2018). Motivations and influences in Chinese international doctoral students’ decision for STEM study abroad. Educational Studies, 44(3), 264-278. Ma. Y, & Pan, S. (2015). Chinese returnees from overseas study: An understanding of brain gain and brain circulation in the age of globalization. Frontiers of Education in China, 10(2), 306-329. Rosen, S., & Zweig, D. (2003). Transnational capital: valuing academic returnees in a globalizing China. Bridging minds across the Pacific: US-China educational exchanges, 111-132. Yi, L. (2011): Auditing Chinese higher education? The perspectives of returnee scholars in an elite university. In: International Journal of Educational Development. 31.5, 505–514 Zeithammer, R., & Kellogg, R. P. (2013). The hesitant hai gui: Return-migration preferences of US-educated Chinese scientists and engineers. Journal of Marketing Research, 50(5), 644-663. Zweig, D. (1997). To return or not to return? Politics vs. economics in China’s brain drain. Studies in Comparative International Development, 32(1), 92-125.
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