The role of knowledge in the identity formation of Chinese graduates from UK and Chinese universities working in IT and Law in China

  • Jie Gao

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


More than 80 percent of Overseas educated Chinese graduates return to China every year, and the number of returnees has reached 1 million in 2021. To attract more Chinese students to return, the Chinese government are constantly publishing and renewing attraction policies on both national and local levels. Industries are also providing positions that prioritise returnees with higher salaries. However, these differences in treatment have caused heightened disparities between returnees and domestic graduates and induced growing disappointment from employers. This thesis aims to develop an understanding of individual experience and the process of transnational knowledge application. It focuses on how UK educated returnees and Chinese domestic graduates from the field of IT and law perceive, acquire and apply knowledge in the Chinese workplace. To do so, data were collected from 43 participants using life grid interviews and informal follow-up interviews. Through data analysis and evaluation, I developed a theoretical model named youki. I conceptualise participants’ process of knowledge perception, knowledge acquisition, knowledge application and identity formation through their experience from education to employment with the consideration of contextual factors. The model of youki generates a holistic view of the complex and transformative journey individuals go through, namely the continuous acquisition, reconstruction and reformation of knowledge, and how individuals form their identities by knowledge application or navigate their application of knowledge according to their identities. The findings from this thesis indicate 3 factors that influence an individual’s journey: the planned career path constructed with the information they gain or provided to them, the structural changes in their industry, and the interaction and dynamic between knowledge application and their social and professional identity.
Date of Award29 Mar 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndrea Abbas (Supervisor) & Jim Hordern (Supervisor)

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