Higher Education in Asia: Moving Ahead

The Shifting of Destinations? Chinese Elite University Students’ Decision-making on Study Abroad Under Covid-19 

Chair: Professor Gerard POSTIGLIONE The University of Hong Kong

Speaker:: Professor Wenqin SHEN, Peking University

Date: October 12, 2021 (Tuesday)

Time: 15:00-16:15 (HK Time) By Zoom

Registration: Click here

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global higher education system. In the context of the pandemic, the risks and uncertainties faced by Chinese university graduates who intend to go abroad have increased. Some studies predict that, affected by the pandemic and changes in international relations, the destinations of Chinese students will change, and East Asian countries and regions will be favored due to cultural and security factors. Since March 2020, we have conducted interviews with more than 80 Chinese elite university graduates who intend to study abroad, and this speech will mainly report the impact of the pandemic on the choice of destination countries for studying abroad.

We found that the change in the trend of studying abroad in East Asia after the pandemic is not significant, and elite college students still prefer to study in the United States and Europe, especially the United States. The reason for choosing Asian countries such as Japan and south Korea is more due to cultural and economic considerations. In other words, despite the discourse of the rise of Asian universities, elite university students’ perception of the center-periphery pattern of higher education which equate Western universities with academic centers and which was shaped and strengthened by their previous international experience in the west has not changed fundamentally.


Wenqin Shen is Associate Professor of Higher Education at Peking University. He mainly studies the higher education system from the perspectives of history and science studies (Sociology of Science, philosophy of science, etc.). He authored and co-authored publications focused on transnational history of idea and practice of liberal education (China, UK and US), international academic mobility (especially the mobility of doctoral students and postdocs) and doctoral career trajectories.