International and transnational learning in higher education: a study of students’ career development in China

Ka Ho MOK, Xiao HAN, Jin JIANG, Xiaojun ZHANG

Research output: Working paperWorking paper series


During the past few decades, there has been a significant increase in international mobile students. With a strong intention to enhance their competitiveness in the global labour market, a growing number of students embark on their learning journeys through studying abroad or enrolling in transnational higher education programmes, expecting that the international learning experience will enhance their future job searches and career advancement. However, whether this kind of learning experience enables students, especially degree pursuers for study abroad, to secure promising positions in the global labour market and make their investments in higher education worthy remains debatable. The current literature renders differentiated or even opposing results. Drawing on both student surveys and in-depth interviews, this paper aims to explore how international or transnational higher education affects job searches and career development, with particular reference to the perspective of employable skills and contextual influences. We find that the respondents of the present research highly rate their learning experiences for hard knowledge, as well as soft skills and cross-cultural understanding. The majority of our respondents suggest that the international and transnational learning experience positively contributes to their career development. However, most of the graduates from international or transnational higher education institutions come from advantaged family backgrounds, and attained their first job through their social network after their graduation. Transnational and overseas study may perpetuate social inequality. The article ends with some sociological reflections on this study.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherCentre for Global Higher Education, UCL Institute of Education
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Publication series

NameCentre for Global Higher Education Working Paper Series
PublisherUCL Institute of Education
ISSN (Print)2398-564X

Bibliographical note

The present research project as part of the research programmes of the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) in the UK.


  • Transnational higher education
  • International learning
  • Graduate employment
  • Employable skills
  • Contextual influences


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