Transnational Academic Mobility: The Experiences of Chinese and British Academic Migrants in a Sino-UK Joint Venture University

Tianfeng Liu

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In the context of transnational higher education, this study examines Chinese and British academic migrants’ everyday work-life practices in a Sino-UK university joint venture. The study breaks new ground by teasing out the difficulties, problems, misunderstandings, contradictions, and tensions that occur in an unfamiliar transnational academic field for academic migrants. Correspondingly, it also looks at the career opportunities and international social and academic connections that gradually cultivated in the transnational working environment. The study offers a deeper understanding of transnational academic space by providing empirical insights into transnational academics’ moving strategies, their pedagogic creativeness, and how their sense of belonging is intertwined with different places on the ‘host’ university campus.

The study adopted a variety of qualitative methodological tools (semi-structured interviews, photo interviews and participant observation) to explore the everyday texture of academic migrants’ working practices in transnational workplace. The findings suggest the ‘unexpected’ barriers in the ‘new’ transitional academic workplace have significance for academic migrants’ further professional improvement and transnational mobility. It also reveals how academic migrants are not just passively adapting or integrating into the ‘new’ transnational professional structure, but also positively challenging and changing its boundaries.

The research sheds light on scholarly debates on transnational academic mobility and the internationalisation of higher education in the Sino-British context. It goes beyond the national boundaries of higher education and places the investigation in a broader frame of social, cultural and spatial analysis in order to generate a deeper understanding of academic migrants’ everyday practices. It argues for a transnational and enduring understanding of academic migrants’ experience and points out that those experiences are nationally unbounded, yet locally specific. It also takes a step forward in academic mobility studies, by using grounded evidence gathered in transnational academic space to challenge the mono-academic cultural stereotypes bounded within national borders.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Willis, Katie, Supervisor
  • Brickell, Katherine, Advisor
Award date3 Jul 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • academic mobility
  • international higher education
  • space and place
  • transnationalism
  • Joint Venture University
  • Chinese and British Academic Migrants

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