Doctoral dissertation

Dissertation: Weak integration trap may threaten Chinese students' adaptation in Europe

What drives Chinese students to move to Europe? How do they integrate into the academic and social contexts of their host countries?

The Chinese currently constitute the world’s largest group of migrant students and one of the largest groups of international students in Finland and Germany. Despite the receiving countries’ incentives to attract and retain international students, little is known about what drives them to study in non-Anglophone countries. Their integration into the academic and social contexts of the host countries is also under-researched. Hanwei Li’s doctoral study seeks to contribute to the understanding of the migration and integration paths of Chinese tertiary students in Finland and Germany.

The findings of Hanwei Li’s dissertation suggest that the education migration industry plays a vital role in facilitating and channeling Chinese student migration. The education migration industry in China exemplifies a fully-fledged industry that provides services for all phases of student migration. It is evident that although studies abroad have become more accessible for the Chinese, they have also become more burdensome financially.

The dissertation highlights the important mediating role of both English and the host language in Chinese students’ integration processes. The study also shows that although the Chinese students may be mainly focused on their academic integration due to the demanding coursework, it is important not to neglect their social integration. Social integration will not only alleviate the students’ feelings of loneliness, stress and homesickness, but may also ultimately contribute to their academic success.

In conclusion, Hanwei Li’s doctoral study points to the phenomenon of a weak integration trap. This may occur when incoming students have acquired the capability to manage their daily lives in the host society but have not yet gained the same educational and work opportunities as native-born citizens. In addition, they have not gained a sense of dignity and belonging or of acceptance as full members of the host society.

The findings show that the weak integration trap is often the result of a lack of integration aspiration among Chinese students. However, their aspiration for integration is also shaped and conditioned by the integration infrastructure, such as immigration-related policies and laws of the host countries, which may lead to their becoming trapped in a ‘weak integration’ stage.

Hanwei Li has moved to Finland from mainland China. She earned an M.A. in Sociology at the Masaryk University, Czech Republic. She pursues a joint doctoral degree of DPhil in Education at the Faculty of Education and Culture (EDU), Tampere University and DPhil in Sociology at the Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS), Bielefeld University. Her doctoral research was part of the Marie Curie ITN project ‘Transnational Migration, Citizenship and the Circulation of Rights and Responsibilities’ (TRANSMIC).

The doctoral dissertation of M.A. Hanwei Li in the field of Education and Sociology entitled The Journey of a Thousand Miles: Chinese Student Migration and Integration in Finland and Germany will be publicly examined at Tampere University at 12 o’clock on Friday 1 March 2019 in Virta Building, Room 109 (Auditorium), street address Åkerlundinkatu 5, Tampere. The opponent will be Dr. Charles Mathies from the University of Jyväskylä. The Custos will be Professor Pirkko Pitkänen from the Faculty of Education and Culture.

The dissertation is available online at the http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0957-2