Massification of higher education, graduate employment and social mobility in the Greater China region

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Globalisation and the evolution of the knowledge-based economy have caused dramatic worldwide changes in the character and functions of education, particularly higher education. In the search for global competitiveness, many emerging economies have begun to expand their higher education systems, which has significantly affected the relationship between higher education and graduate employment. Recently, international comparative studies have suggested that increasing enrolment in higher education does not always promote upward social mobility, and can intensify inequality in education. This article critically examines the impact of the expansion of higher education in East Asia on graduate employment and social mobility in the context of an increasingly globalising economy and changing labour market needs. The article discusses emerging trends in the Greater China region, with a particular focus on Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Taipei, and argues that the massification of higher education has not necessarily led to more occupational opportunities for youth or opportunities for upward social movement, particularly since the signifi- cant changes in the global labour market after the 2008 global financial crisis. On the contrary, the intensification of ‘positional competition’ among college graduates seems to reflect growing social inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-71
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

The author would like to thank the APEC HK Study Centre at The Hong Kong Institute of Education for a research grant in support of the present study. Some of the findings reported in this article are based on the funded project.


  • Massification of higher education
  • changes in labour market needs
  • social mobility
  • opportunity trap
  • Greater China region


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