Chinese graduates of UK universities face challenges in assimilating into the local workforce – study


Upon returning to their home country and joining the workforce, many former international students face a curious catch-22: while they’re expected to apply their overseas experience in their work, employers also want them to be able to “fit in” in with the local working culture.

According to researchers from the University of Warwick, after conducting a study looking into this phenomenon among UK-educated Chinese graduates, they found that many Chinese employers considered overseas education to be something “normal”, and expected job candidates to “sell experience” in order to secure the job.

However, once hired, employers said they also wanted graduates to be able to adapt to the Chinese working culture.

This creates a challenging balancing act for international graduates, as they try to fulfil both expectations.

In the report, entitled Standing Out and Fitting In: The Paradox for UK-Educated Chinese Students, some employers also said they believed Chinese graduates from the UK to be more likely to have “over-inflated expected starting salaries”.

Nearly 100 Chinese employers from various companies, including start-ups, multinationals, government organisations, and state-owned enterprises participated in the study.

Warwick’s international employer liaison manager, Esther de Perlaky, told Times Higher Education that Chinese students often assumed that their overseas education was “enough of a unique selling point” when applying for jobs.

She said UK universities needed to do more to “equip [Chinese] students with the skills and abilities to be able to sell that experience”, as it now takes more to impress employers than just the name of an overseas university on a CV.

In another part of the study, which involved a survey of 2,174 UK-based Chinese students from 54 universities, only one-quarter of respondents said they had a clear future career plan, while almost half (47 percent) admitted that they had not taken advantage of their university careers service.

Lawrence Young, a pro vice-chancellor at Warwick, said he was “quite surprised” by the finding, as most Chinese students at the university study vocational subjects such as business, finance or engineering.

To overcome gaps between graduate and employer expectations, he said the university was “looking at the possibility” of arranging work placements for Chinese students at companies in mainland China.

Image via Shutterstock

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