Educating China on the Move: A Typology of Contemporary Chinese Higher Education Mobilities

Catherine Montgomery, Cora Ling Ling Xu

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The landscape of global higher education is changing rapidly in response to and alongside the geopolitical and geosocial global transformations and China and East Asia are becoming key players in higher education. As China’s economic power and strategic reach grows against a context of global uncertainty, it has become increasingly important to develop a nuanced understanding of Chinese globalisation, not least for its significance to the balance of power relations within and beyond Asia. Higher education provides a powerful lens through which to see how China is globalising and how this might impact on the world. This is manifested in its many established and newer forms of education mobilities. Recognising the lack of research efforts to systematically understand the complexities of contemporary higher education mobilities across China, this paper proposes a typology through a thematic narrative review of more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles, government and media documents. This typology of Chinese educational mobilities reveals three key insights, including 1) a critique on the ‘mobility imperative’ and the role of the Chinese state, 2) a call for more longitudinal and/or retrospective research to facilitate a relational understanding of the fluid nature of higher education mobilities in China, and 3) a note on the urgency of developing a comprehensive theoretical and conceptual tool kit. This article contributes to an updated understanding of the fluid, multiple and multi-directional nature of contemporary higher education mobilities of China.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-627
JournalReview of Education
Issue number3
Early online date9 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019


  • China, higher education mobilities, globalisation, typology


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