Asia Pacific Education Review

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 43–53 | Cite as

British degrees made in Hong Kong: an enquiry into the role of space and place in transnational education

  • Maggi W. H. Leung
  • Johanna L. Waters


The fundamental logic of transnational education programmes is a one-to-one transfer of institutional capital across space and an unimportance of place. This article interrogates these presumptions and argues that space and place play an important role in transnational education. Drawing on research that examines the experiences of students and graduates of British degree programmes offered in Hong Kong, we conclude that institutional capital does not always travel wholly and smoothly due to a combination of policy-related, social, cultural and economic factors. Our findings also underline the importance of place in students’ experiences, which are not sufficiently recognised by the providers. This, in turn, affects the ability of students to cultivate institutional and other forms of social capital, with implications for subsequent employment opportunities and social mobility.


Transnational education British degree programmes Hong Kong 



We are grateful to all interviewees who shared with us their opinions and experiences, Yutin Ki for his excellent work and the British Council for its support. This paper is based on research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK) and the Research Grants Council (Hong Kong) (RES-000-22-3000). An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the ARI-GUISM Joint Conference on Education Mobilities in East Asia held at the National University of Singapore in May 2012.


  1. Alexander, L., & Tredoux, C. (2010). The spaces between us: A spatial analysis of informal segregation at a South African university. Journal of Social Issues, 66(2), 367–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altbach, P. (1989). The new internationalism: Foreign students and scholars. Studies in Higher Education, 14(2), 125–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). NY: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  4. Brinton, M. (2000). Social capital in the Japanese youth labour market: Labour market policy, schools, and norms. Policy Studies, 33, 289–306.Google Scholar
  5. British Council. (2009). Guide to UK qualifications in Hong Kong. Retrieved from
  6. British Council. (2011). Transnational education in HK. Retrieved from
  7. Butler, T., & Hamnett, C. (2007). The geography of education: Introduction. Urban Studies, 44(7), 1161–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chan, D., & Lo, W. (2007). Running universities as enterprises: University governance changes in Hong Kong. Asian Pacific Journal of Education, 27(3), 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cook, V., & Hemming, P. (2011). Education spaces: Embodied dimensions and dynamics. Social & Cultural Geography, 12(1), 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cosgrove, D. (1989). Geography is everywhere: Culture and symbolism in human landscapes. In D. Gregory & R. Walford (Eds.), Horizons in human geography (pp. 118–135). Basingstoke: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Durrheima, K., Trotter, K., Manicom, D., & Piper, L. (2004). From exclusion to informal segregation: The limits to racial transformation at the University of Natal. Social Dynamics, 30(1), 141–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Education Bureau of Hong Kong. (2011). Post-secondary education: Statistical information. Retrieved from
  13. Fincher, R., & Shaw, K. (2009). The unintended segregation of transnational students in central Melbourne. Environmental and Planning A, 41(8), 1884–1902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fincher, R., & Shaw, K. (2011). Enacting separate social words: International and local students in public space in central Melbourne. Geoforum, 42(5), 39–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Findlay, A. R., King, R., Smith, F. M., Geddes, A., & Skeldon, R. (2012). World class? An investigation of globalisation, difference and international student mobility. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 37(1), 118–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fisher, B. J., & Hartmann, D. J. (1995). The impact of race on the social experience of college students at a predominantly white university. Journal of Black Studies, 26(2), 117–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. French, N. (1999). Transnational education—competition or complementarity: The case of Hong Kong. Higher Education in Europe, 24(2), 219–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hall, S. (2011). Educational ties, social capital and the trans-local reproduction of MBA alumni networks. Global Networks, 11(1), 118–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hanassab, S. (2006). Diversity, international students, and perceived discrimination: Implications for educators and counsellors. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(2), 157–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Holt, L. (2007). Children’s sociospatial (re)production of disability within primary school playgrounds. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(5), 783–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hopkins, P. (2011). Towards critical geographies of the university campus: Understanding the contested experiences of Muslim students. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36(1), 157–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hubbard, P. (2009). Geographies of studentification and purpose-built student accommodation: Leading separate lives? Environment and Planning A, 41(8), 1903–1923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hussin, S. & Ismail, A. (2009). Goals, components, and factors considered in university development. Asia Pacific Education Review, 10(1), 83–91.Google Scholar
  24. Johnston, R., Wilson, D., & Burgess, S. (2007). Ethnic segregation and educational performance at secondary school in Bradford and Leicester. Environment and Planning A, 39(3), 609–629.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, S., & Brinton, M. (1996). Elite education and social capital: The case of South Korea. Sociology of Education, 69(3), 177–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leung, M. W. H. (2012). Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles: Geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Retrieved from
  27. Leung, M., Kyriakidou, N., & Zhang, C. (2010) The great British ‘education takeaway’: A case study on transnational education in Hong Kong. Poster presentation at British Council Going Global 4 Conference. London, UK, 25–16 March 2010. Google Scholar
  28. McBurnie, G., & Ziguras, C. (2007). Transnational education: Issues and trends in offshore higher education. Florence: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Mok, K. (2005). The quest for work class university: Quality assurance and international benchmarking in Hong Kong. Quality Assurance in Education, 13(4), 277–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murphy-Lejeune, E. (2002). Student mobility and narrative in Europe: The new strangers. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Naidoo, V. (2006). International education: A tertiary-level industry update. Journal of Research in International Education, 5(3), 323–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ong, A. (1999). Flexible citizenship: The cultural logics of trans-nationality. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Rizvi, F., Lingard, B., & Lavai, J. (2006). Post-colonialism and education: Negotiating a contested terrain. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 14(3), 249–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Robson, B. (1969). Urban analysis: A study of city structure with special reference to Sunderland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Roscigno, V. J., Tomaskovic-Devey, D., & Crowley, M. (2006). Education and the inequalities of place. Social Forces, 84(4), 2121–2145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sidhu, R. (2009a). Running to stay still in the knowledge economy. Journal of Education Policy, 24(3), 237–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sidhu, R. (2009b). The brand name research university goes global. Higher Education, 57(2), 125–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith, D. (2008). The politics of studentification and ‘(un)balanced’ urban populations: Lessons for gentrification and sustainable communities? Urban Studies, 45(12), 2541–2564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tayyaba, S. (2012). Rural-urban gaps in academic achievement, schooling conditions, student, and teachers’ characteristics in Pakistan. International Journal of Educational Management, 26(1), 6–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thomas, M. E. (2005). I think it’s just natural: The spatiality of racial segregation at a US high school. Environmental and Planning A, 37(7), 1233–1248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thomson, S. (2005). Territorialising the primary school playground: Deconstructing the geography of playtime. Children’s Geographies, 3(1), 63–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tupper, J., Carson, T., Johnson, I., & Mangat, J. (2008). Building place: Students’ negotiation of spaces and citizenship in schools. Canadian Journal of Education, 31(4), 1065–1092.Google Scholar
  43. UNESCO/Council of Europe. (2001). Code of good practice in the provision of transnational education. Retrieved from
  44. Van Ingen, C., & Halas, J. (2006). Claiming space: Aboriginal students within school landscapes. Children’s Geographies, 4(3), 379–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Warrington, M. (2005). Mirage in the desert? Access to educational opportunities in an area of social exclusion. Antipode, 37(4), 796–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Waters, J. L. (2006). Geographies of cultural capital: Education, international migration and families strategies between Hong Kong and Canada. Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers, 31(2), 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Waters, J. L. (2007). Roundabout routes and sanctuary schools: The role of situated educational practices and habitus in the creation of transnational professionals. Global Networks, 7(4), 477–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Waters, J. L. (2009). Transnational geographies of academic distinction: The role of social capital in the recognition and evaluation of overseas credentials. Globalization, Societies and Education, 7(2), 113–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Waters, J. L., & Brooks, R. (2010). Accidental achievers? International higher education, class reproduction and privileged in the experiences of UK students overseas. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31(2), 217–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Waters, J. L., & Leung, M. W. H. (2012). Young people and the reproduction of disadvantage through transnational higher education in Hong Kong. Sociological Research Online, 17(3), 6. Retrieved from
  51. Waters, J. L., & Leung, M. W. H. (2013a). A colourful university life? Transnational higher education and the spatial dimensions of institutional social capital in Hong Kong. Population, Space and Place, 19(2), 155–167.Google Scholar
  52. Waters, J. L., & Leung, M. W. H. (2013b). Immobile transnationalisms? Young people and their in situ experiences of ‘international’ education in Hong Kong. Urban Studies, 50(3), 606–620.Google Scholar
  53. Webster, B. J., & Yang, M. (2012). Transition, induction and goal achievement: First-year experiences of Hong Kong undergraduates. Asia Pacific Education Review, 13(2), 359–368.Google Scholar
  54. Woolley, H., Armitagea, M., Bishopa, J., Curtisa, M., & Ginsborga, J. (2006). Going outside together: Good practice with respect to the inclusion of disabled children in primary school playgrounds. Children’s Geographies, 4(3), 303–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Xiang, B., & Shen, W. (2009). International student migration and social stratification in China. International Journal of Educational Development, 29(5), 513–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yang, R. (2003). Globalisation and higher education development: A critical analysis. International Review of Education, 49(3–4), 269–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.The University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations