Panel 27

African educational mobility to China

Panel organisers: Ruvimbo Natalie Mavhiki and Obert Hodzi, Department of Cultures, University of Helsinki, Finland.


Educational mobility to China is growing but is little understood. In less than 15 years, the African student body in China has grown 26-fold – from just under 2,000 in 2003 to almost 50,000 in 2015 making China the second most popular destination for African students studying abroad, after France. Beyond stringent visa requirements and expensive tuition and living expenses in Europe and the United States, what is driving Africans to study in China? What kind of Africans are going to China to study? This panel invites papers that explore methods, approaches and empirical studies of this surging phenomenon.

Generally, due to the pervasive poverty and inequality in African states, mobility is seen as a means to escape individual socio-economic challenges for the transformation of lives. Where migration literature focuses on mobility and Africa’s ‘brain drain’ challenge, this perspective presents the ‘brain gain’, the acquisition of skill, given China’s technological advancement. Although it might be too early to tell, we intend to investigate: how many African students are in China? Why are they going to China? What are they studying?  Are they returning home after their studies? How do the local Chinese view African mobility trends to Africa and do their views differ from those of their leaders?  what are the views of Africans studying in China?  And, what does this say about China-Africa cooperation and China’s global rise?

In probing Africans and educational mobility to China, the panel therefore pushes the boundaries of enquiry beyond the surface of affordable education. From an interdisciplinary approach, it explores the geopolitical, socio-cultural, economic and political implications of mobility to China. It further seeks to explore the profile of Africans studying in China, and how they interact with Chinese; and examine understandings and discourses of the educational mobility in both China and respective African countries.

Contributions to the panel may focus on the above and similar issues and may include such questions as: Are current methods and approaches still relevant? What innovative perspectives and approaches of understanding and analyzing relations between the Chinese and African students can be proffered? In addition, the panel welcomes empirical studies examining the intricacies of African educational mobility to China.


Approved abstracts panel 27

1. China’s Bolstering Education Development in China-Africa Relations: Knowledge Sharing and Sustainability

Author: Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi, Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, China.

For decades, China has been unceasingly making headway on the modality and quality of educational collaboration with African nations. This educational collaboration comes through student exchange, joint initiatives (research) and special training programs for African educational officials, as well as other long and short-term training of Africans in China. On the other hand, in the discourse about China-Africa relations, technology transfer is one of the less investigated subjects; however, technology transfers have existed in China-Africa cooperation in the form of knowledge sharing. The paper explores the following: (i) ‘what’ are transferred through think tanks, academic publication, one-on-one inter-institutional cooperation, cooperation in research projects; and the improvement in the cooperation on technical and vocational education and training at tertiary level; (ii) the potential for cooperation in knowledge sharing between China and African countries that are core to economic development in the areas of manufacturing, infrastructure, agriculture, medical, telecommunication and knowledge sharing from China’s development experience; and (iii) how access to information and knowledge sharing can stimulate and promote sustainable development. Chinese methods of teaching ‘how to develop’ based on its own experience may help fortify the independence of African nations and build win-win cooperation for long-term development.

2. African educational mobility to China: the case of Sudan

Author: Samia Satti Osman Mohamed Nour, Economics Department, Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, Khartoum University, Khartoum, Sudan.

This paper uses both the descriptive and comparative approaches to discuss African educational mobility to China with particular focus on the case of Sudan over the period (1999-2018). This paper discusses the major development concerning the pattern, size, trend and distribution of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China, and examines the push-pull factors (economic, political, educational, etc.) causes and consequences of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China. We fill the gap in the African literature and present a more comprehensive and recent analysis of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China using UNESCO recent secondary data on international students mobility in tertiary education and recent data from Sudan Ministry of Higher Education. We provide an interesting comparative analysis of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China. Our findings support the first hypothesis that the pattern and size of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China increased substantially over the past years but the distribution showed considerable variation and biased towards specific specialization fields (Engineering, Science and related fields). Our results corroborate the second hypothesis that the increasing trend of migration of higher education students from Sudan to China is caused by several push-pull factors (e.g. economic, political, educational, etc.). Our results support the third hypothesis that migration of higher education students from Sudan to China lead to mixed positive and negative impacts (e.g. transfer of knowledge, brain gain and skill acquisition for returned migrant students, but weak capacity to retain talents and brain drain for non-returned migrant students). Our findings corroborate the fourth hypothesis that Chinese aid and development assistance to Sudan not only limited to financial capital but also include technical assistance in the form of scholarships for education that motivated educational mobility from Sudan to China.

Keywords: Educational mobility, migration of higher education students, Africa, Sudan, China, Chinese aid and development assistance.

3. Living and studying in China: Exploring the everyday lives and lived experiences of Zimbabwean students at Chinese universities

Author: Simbarashe Gukurume

Since the enactment of the controversial “Look East policy”, there has been accelerated mobility and migration of Zimbabwean students to China and Chinese universities. Similarly, the Chinese and Zimbabwean governments have introduced scholarships for students wishing to study in China. Inspite of the recent skyrocketing increase of Zimbabwean students enrolling at Chinese universities, there is hardly any study that explores the mobility of Zimbabwean students, the reasons behind this increased mobility, their lived experiences of studying and living in China and the nature of socialities forged in China. Thus, little is known about the lives of Zimbabwean students at Chinese universities. This paper seeks to fill this knowledge gap through a qualitative study of Zimbabwean students living and studying in China. In so doing, I draw on de Certeau’s concepts of strategies and tactics to understand the everyday lives of Zimbabwean students in China. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with students studying at Chinese universities and secondary sources, the paper also unpacks the relationships, interactions and the mundane forms of the everyday among these students –the challenges they face and how they try to navigate and circumvent them. How do Zimbabwean students embed themselves and integrate into Chinese cityscapes and universities? How do they relate and interact with their Chinese counterpart? This paper attempts to answer these and other questions, and provide insights into the Zimbabwean student mobility to Chinese universities.

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