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Phase II – Research

Standing Out and Fitting In
Findings from an in-depth UK-wide research project into Enhancing the Employability of UK-educated Chinese students reveals the stark paradox faced by many UK-educated Chinese students – the challenge of both ‘standing out and fitting in’.

The research confirms a clear gap between students’ career expectations compared with the needs of Chinese employers – recruiting employers are looking for Chinese students to ‘stand out’ and sell the benefits of their overseas experience. Similarly, Chinese alumni urge current Chinese students to ‘stand out’ and make the most of their UK experience by embracing UK culture.

Herein lies the conundrum, as Chinese culture, both in the home and the workplace, traditionally places great emphasis on ‘fitting in’. Whilst Chinese employers gave feedback that they wished UK-Chinese students to stand out in the recruitment process, they equally expressed the need for graduates to adapt back and ‘fit in’ to the Chinese working culture.

Conversely, during academic teaching, Chinese students are asked to rapidly adapt to a Western way of learning – we expect students to ‘stand out’, to question and have active discussions with both peers and academic staff. This UK approach contrasts strongly with the traditional Chinese way of learning, which is much more focused on ‘fitting in’.
 
The research reveals a lack of career planning by Chinese students – over 60% of students coming to the UK have only a basic idea of their career aim. How can UK Higher Education Institutions ensure their careers teams have the knowledge and resources to support Chinese students with career planning and return to what is a very rapidly changing labour market in China?
 
In this report we look at the paradox facing Chinese students of ‘standing out and fitting in’ during their studies in the UK and on return to China, using evidence gained from quantitative and qualitative feedback from Chinese students, recent alumni and employers. The research findings also provide an insight into how we, as Higher Education Institutions, can support our Chinese students with their career planning to enhance their employability outcomes, whatever their chosen career path.
 
The research project has been a unique collaborative Higher Education endeavour and demonstrates the willingness and value in Higher Education Institution collaboration to support our Chinese students and graduates.


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© Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services 2017