The Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020) represents a blueprint for China’s overall strategy of educational modernization. A major theme of reform in higher education is internationalization which includes setting up a cluster of exemplary Sino-foreign cooperative education institutions, building joint laboratories and research centers in colleges by international cooperation, and introducing a large number of high-level professionals from overseas countries.
Central to the internationalization initiatives are returnee faculty members who are equipped with intercultural background and international experience. This paper examines how returnee faculty wish to promote change in China’s higher education and asks: What are the professional ideals of returnee faculty? How do they perceive their roles in the education reform of China? What are their strategies to shape China’s higher education in certain directions? How do their overseas education and experience shape their perceptions and strategies? What are the dynamics between governance structure and individual agency? Data are drawn from document analysis (including government policy statements and statistics, mass media articles and university websites) and semi-structured in-depth interviews with returnee faculty from two universities in Western China.