Exploring the link between studying abroad and student employability: a study of international students in a Chinese university
This study adopts a qualitative approach to explore the link between international student mobility and employability. The findings are from the perspectives of international students based on their perceptions of undertaking degree-level study in a university in China in relation to their employability. Two key research questions are posed for exploring that link. The first research question explores the reasons why individuals choose to do Master’s studies in China, particularly with respect to their perceived value of overall educational and international student mobility (ISM) experiences to their future career prospects. The second question looks at how international students develop employability by understanding their reported study and living experiences in China. To those ends, this study examined international students’ mobility experiences by employing qualitative research methods: semi-structured, in-depth interviews and document analysis. Research participants were a group of 23 international students from 20 different countries across the six continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia), and undertaking a Master’s degree in one of eight disciplinary areas (Education, Medicine, Agriculture, Economics, Public Affairs, Politics and Chinese studies, Chemical Engineering, Bridge and Tunnel Engineering). The findings were analysed and discussed from the theoretical perspective of a capability approach in order to capture and frame students’ perceived value of mobility experiences to employability beyond the human capital or positional conflict conceptualisations. The findings, drawing on students’ perspectives, indicate that students linked study abroad in China with their employability development either explicitly or implicitly. First, students perceived the link between valuable elements of ISM and its corresponding aspect of employability differently in relation to internal capabilities and external conditions. Second, findings suggest that these variations in students’ perceptions are due to a wide range of influential factors (i.e. individual or contextual). Third, by looking at their subsequent study and living experiences in China, students managed to develop internal capabilities and seek external opportunities through a combination of resources and internal and external conversion factors. Based on these findings, the study further proposes implications for government and university policies to support individuals by expanding their freedoms (capabilities and agency).