Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - To Move or Not? Considering Futures Through Higher Education Choices for Chinese Parents & Students

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Jacaranda II, First Floor

Prospective higher education (HE) students and their parents in China face an increasingly bewildering landscape of choices among institutions at home and overseas when deciding what to study and where. Domestically, universities are ranked based on government schemes that prioritize the development of key institutions. Private and semi-private institutions have proliferated, including joint ventures of foreign and domestic universities, while a burgeoning sector of commercial education agencies and consultants seek to channel students’ choices at home and abroad. Migration for education is normalized, particularly for students from less prosperous regions with fewer prestigious high schools and universities, and the assumption that education is the route to ‘a better life’ has hegemonic status. Parents frequently migrate or move their residence to enable a higher quality education for their children, whether through earning money to pay for it or through moving to a ‘better’ location. In such a context, how do families make choices about young people’s futures? Based on qualitative interviews with students and parents in China, this paper examines how families think about these choices. It also points out disjunctures between the perspectives of parents and students: although parents are intimately involved in planning their children’s futures, and enabling the realization of these plans—sometimes involving significant sacrifice, including borrowing large sums, and even foregoing a good family life—at the same time, parents value children’s autonomy and accept their independent visioning of futures that, as representatives of a different generation, they feel they cannot fully imagine.

Yamei Sun

Tsinghua University, China

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Sophia Woodman

University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

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