Higher Education

, Volume 76, Issue 6, pp 973–988 | Cite as

Exploring expectations, experiences and long-term plans of Chinese international students studying in the joint Sino-Russian degree

  • Svetlana Sablina
  • Hannah SoongEmail author
  • Anna Pechurina


This article investigates the transitioning process of international Chinese undergraduate students studying in Russia. The paper offers new insights into changes in the expectations and experiences of Chinese students at various stages of their joint educational studies in China and Russia. Drawing on a qualitative study of 20 Chinese undergraduates studying in Russia, the findings of the study indicate that before studying in Russia, most of Chinese students had low expectations about their study programme. However, once they were in Russia, students’ perception of the value of their international education experiences changes through varied opportunities for self-reflexivity in an unfamiliar cultural environment. The study also offers an example of methodological approach useful for researching international students’ experiences, particularly within but not limited to context of Sino-Foreign university partnerships.


International higher education Chinese students International student experiences Russian international education Qualitative research 


  1. Ahmad, S. Z., & Buchanan, F. R. (2016). Choices of destination for transnational higher education: ‘pull’ factors in an Asia Pacific market. Educational Studies, 42(2), 163–180. Scholar
  2. Arefiev, A. L., & Sheregui, F. E. (2016). Export of Russian educational services: statistical collection. Issue 6. Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. Moscow: Centre for Sociological Research.Google Scholar
  3. Bamber, M. (2014). What motivates Chinese women to study in the UK and how do they perceive their experience? Higher Education, 68(1), 47–68. Scholar
  4. Bodycott, P. (2009). Choosing a higher education study abroad destination: what mainland Chinese parents and students rate as important. Journal of Research in International Education, 8, 349–373. Scholar
  5. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, J. M. (2017). Three levels of push-pull dynamics among Chinese international students’ decision to study abroad in the Canadian context. Journal of International Students, 7(1), 113–135.Google Scholar
  7. Cummings, K. W., & Santner, K. (2013). What happened in universal education?—in the West and in Asia. In RIHE (Ed.), The changing academic profession in Asia: teaching, research, governance and management (International seminar reports No. 20) (pp. 23–36). RIHE: Hiroshima University.Google Scholar
  8. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). (2003). Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials (2nd ed.). Thousands Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  9. Fang, W. (2012). The development of transnational higher education in China: a comparative study of research universities and teaching universities. Journal of Studies in International Education, 16(1), 5–23. Scholar
  10. Ganga, D., & Scott, S. (2006). Cultural ‘insiders’ and the issue of positionality in qualitative migration research: moving ‘across’ and moving ‘along’ researcher-participant divides’. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(3). Accessed 25 May 2017.
  11. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society. Outline of the theory of structuration. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  12. Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  13. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late-modern age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  14. Griner, J., & Sobol, A. (2014). Chinese students’ motivations for studying abroad. Global Studies Journal, 7(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hayhoe, R., Li, J., Lin, J., & Zha, Q. (2011). Portraits of 21st century Chinese universities: in the move to mass higher education. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  16. Holmes, P. (2004). Negotiating differences in learning and intercultural communication: ethnic Chinese students in a New Zealand university. Business Communication Quarterly, 67(3), 294–307. Scholar
  17. Hou, J., Montgomery, C., & McDowell, L. (2014). Exploring the diverse motivations of transnational higher education in China: complexities and contradictions. Journal of Education for Teaching, 40(3), 300–318. Scholar
  18. Huang, F. (2017). The impact of mass and universal higher education on curriculum and instruction: case-studies of China and Japan. Higher Education, 74(3), 507–525. Scholar
  19. Hung, F. S., Chung, Y. P., & Ho, S. C. (2000). To work or to continue to higher education? The choice of senior secondary students in Shenzhen, China. Higher Education, 39, 455–467. Scholar
  20. Ignatowicz, A., Bolsmann, C., & Miller, H. (2009). Students interviewing students: the Aston University–Hong Kong project. Enhancing learning in the social sciences, 2(1), 1–23. Scholar
  21. Ivanov, I. S. (Ed.). (2013). Internationalization of Russian universities: the Chinese vector. Moscow: Russian International Affairs Council. Accessed 1 November 2016.Google Scholar
  22. Jiani, M. A. (2017). Why and how international students choose Mainland China as a higher education study abroad destination. Higher Education, 74(4), 563–579. Scholar
  23. Kirkpatrick, R., & Zang, Y. (2011). The negative influences of exam-oriented education on Chinese high school students: backwash from classroom to child. Language Testing in Asia, 1(3), 36–45. Scholar
  24. Lee, S. W. (2017). Circulating east to east: understanding the push-pull factors of Chinese students studying in Korea. Journal of Studies in International Education, 21(1), 170–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Li, F., Morgan, W. J., & Ding, X. (2008). The expansion of higher education, employment and over-education in China. International Journal of Educational Development, 28, 687–697. Scholar
  26. Liu, X., Elston, F., & Zhou, P. (2013). Comparing research on Chinese students’ study abroad decision-making: China-based versus overseas-based perspectives. Proceedings of 23rd International Business Research Conference. Accessed 1 November 2016.
  27. Liu, Y. (2015). Geographical stratification and the role of the state in access to higher education in contemporary China. International Journal of Educational Development, 44, 108–117. Scholar
  28. Mason, J. (2017). Qualitative researching (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Mazzarol, T., & Soutar, G. (2001). Push-pull factors influencing international student destination choice. Centre for Entrepreneurial Management and Innovation Discussion Paper. Accessed 1 November 2016.
  30. Morgan, W. J., & Wu, B. (2014. The Chinese dream for higher education and the dilemma it presents. The Conversation. Accessed 1 November 2016.
  31. OECD. (2017). Education at a glance 2016: OECD indicators. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.Google Scholar
  32. Park, S., & Lunt, N. (2015). Confucianism and qualitative interviewing: working Seoul to soul. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16 (2), Accessed 02 May 2017.
  33. Rawlings, M., & Sue, E. (2013). Preparedness of Chinese students for American culture and communicating in English. Journal of International Students, 3(1), 29–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rossiyskaya Gazeta (2014). ‘Chinese Ministry of Education recognizes the diplomas of 542 Russian universities’, January 14.
  35. Samovar, L. A., Porter, R. E., & McDaniel, E. R. (2007). Communication between cultures (6th ed.). Belmont: Thompson/Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  36. Shah, S. (2014). The researcher/interviewer in intercultural context: a social intruder! British Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 549–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Skelly, J. M. (2009). Fostering engagement: the role of international education in the development of global civil society. In R. Lewin (Ed.), Handbook of practice and research in study abroad: higher education and the quest for global citizenship (pp. 21–32). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Soong, H., Tran, L. T., & Hiep, P. H. (2015). Being and becoming an intercultural doctoral student: reflective autobiographical narratives. Reflective Practice, 16, 435–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Soong, H. (2016). Transnational students and mobility: lived experiences of migration. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  40. Tsang, E. Y. (2013). The quest for higher education by the Chinese middle class: retrenching social mobility? Higher Education, 66(6), 653–668. Scholar
  41. Weber, L. E., & Duderstadt, J. J. (2008). The globalization of higher education. London: Economica.Google Scholar
  42. Yang, L. H. (2016). Resources through which Chinese students learn about Western society and culture. Journal of Research in International Education, 15(1), 67–78. Scholar
  43. Ye, L., & Edwards, V. (2015). Chinese overseas doctoral student narratives of intercultural adaptation. Journal of Research in International Education, 14(3), 228–241. Scholar
  44. Yum, J. O. (1988). The impact of Confucianism on interpersonal relationships and communication patterns in East Asia. Communication Monographs, 55(4), 374–388. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNovosibirsk State UniversityNovosibirskRussia
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.School of Social, Psychological And Communication SciencesLeeds Beckett UniversityLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations