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.


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