Higher Education. Expectations and challenges of African students in Chinese Universities in Beijing

Essay 2016 10 Pages

Sociology - Work, Profession, Education, Organisation




Definitions, expectation and challenges

Justification of the study



Discussion and Conclusion



This study explored the expectations and challenges of international African students who studying in higher education institutions in China. The main objectives of this study was to understand expectations and Challenges of the international students who studying graduate programs at the Beijing Universities, by focusing much on African students and their academic expectations throughout their studies in Beijing Universities.

Findings suggest significant differences among international student’s expectations and challenges based on the expectations on their studies. In order to make wide context the study suggested the important of international student to work on their expectations and adjusting their social lives to lower the challenges that may hinder them to cope into local society and achieving good performance.

Survey questionnaire was used as the quantitative data collection technique; findings correlated to the participants’ adjustment to the new studying environment include academic expectation and challenges, and understanding of the Chinese language and culture. The study found that participants have different academic expectation and experienced different challenges in the new learning environment.

Keywords: Expectations, International Students, Challenges, Higher Education, African Students.

This text was written by a non-native English speaker. Please excuse any errors or inconsistencies.


The Higher Education in China has been changed since the market reforms in 1970s, from those years China economic had rapidly growth very fast for a short period of time and high government investments pushed up the expansion of Chinese higher education. (Carnoy et al. 2012) in earl 2000s, China had aimed at establishing world Class elite University and at the same time encouraged the other university to expand their enrollment on higher education institutions.

In 2013 China attracted 328,330 international students from 200 countries to study at 746 higher education institutions, which is an additional of 12% since 2011. Up to date China is the important study destination for many students around the world. Referring to the outline of “National Medium and Long-term Plan for Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020)” and “the Study in China Plan,” China will host 500,000 international students by 2020 (China Ministry of Education 2011).

The governments of China pledged that China would advance “African talent program”, by providing 18,000 scholarships for African and train 30,000 African experts in different areas of discipline (Obulutsa, 2013).

China among the countries that attracted many international students and those students have different expectations toward their studies in china, expectation is defined as believing that something is going to happen or believing that something should be a certain way (Dict, 2015). This study wants to find out what are the expectations and challenges of international African students toward their study in china.

Providers of education should realize expectations of international students from different countries and traditional background and help them to reach their goals (Stacy, 1999). Academic success leads to the self-esteem that helps the student to cope in the new country. This means the sometime social life that student has in new environment can affect the academic expectations of a student Also the social life adjustment is important for international student academic adjustment (Hellsten, 2002)

Also education for international students in any country they are should not be the matter of enrollment and study to complete a certain level, but it should be enhancing them to meets the academic expectations. International education is the understanding of cross-culture and gaining of interactivity competence in various ways of communications and makes the students or graduates being competitive in the global markets, (Stacy, 1999). Though there are supportive Components of success but the environment in general, special abilities, personal work habits and attitudes are the central factors for high expectations, (Tannenbaum, 1997)

Every student had different expectations and plans in various issues such as social affairs, academic and economic issues during and after the completion their studies in China. To find out the expectations in different aspect as mentioned above is huge task, by focusing on African international students who currently study in China the study want to explore the academic expectations and challenges they face during their studying in higher education institution in China.

Definitions, expectation and challenges

Expectation is defined as believing that something is going to happen or believing that something should be a certain way, (Yourdictionary, 2015). Providers of education should realize expectations of international students from different countries and traditional background and help them to reach their goals, (Stacy, 1999). Academic success leads to the self-esteem that helps the student to cope in the new country. This means the sometime social life that student has in new environment can affect the academic expectations of a student Also the social life adjustment is important for international student academic adjustment, (Hellsten, 2002)

It is very important that international students familiarize themselves with the standards for academic integrity and student conduct, international students face more challenges in their Studies than local students the studies have documented that, (Kuo & Roysircar, 2004), (Berry & & Berry, 1991), not only due to language barriers, but also because international students have different expectations and approaches to study from local students (Grey, 2002).

Frequently cited challenges international students experience includes difficulty with the English language, cultural differences, and loneliness, (Abreu &Kim, 2001), (Berry, 1997). Most of the students are studying English as there second language so probably one of the difficult students had. Adjustments for international students are related to their life and/or academic experiences, that is, they have to deal with life and academic stresses in the new environment, (Burant, Crist &Misra, 2003). Life experiences include social-life; housing and practical issues, and academic experiences are related to their studies, (Sam, 2001).Also the different international students have come to different learning environment where they have difference teaching approach. (Gu, 2006), regard of the education environment in China, a teacher centered lecture method has been dominant in the Chinese teaching and learning culture for centuries.

In making sure that academic expectation achieved, student also can evaluate on their own about the skill they have acquired and how they can utilize them to bring effect to the society. (Baruch et al., 2005) developed a model for evaluating what the graduates received after completing their studies. They say in order to realize that the acquired level of degree can bring positivity to graduates, we have to endowing them with five kinds of human capital: i) theoretical knowledge capital, this can be acquired from one’s studies, ii) social capital gained through peering with relevant people, iii) cultural capital, iv) inner-value capital attained by self-labeled and awareness, v) market value capital as evidenced by enhanced earning potential.

Passing the examination in high marks being the greatest goal for students, some says that it probably can decrease the capacity of interaction as the social constructivism addressed. (Schellens, Valcke & Zhu, 2009) social-constructivism approach that encourages students to actively participate in class has been promoted in recent years; education systems still put a lot of emphasis on examination scores

For international students to achieve their academic expectations there are two important aspects which are social support and connectedness. (Inose &Yeh, 2003) international students face many challenges such as language, culture, academics, finances, racial discrimination, and homesickness. Several studies showed that international students mostly are lonely because they lack of friends and social networks, poor understanding of local cultural and linguistic environment.

Some aspects should be consider on making the international students fit on their studying program, institution should conduct orientation before developing refined intercultural programming students to make them being familiar with their new learning environment , (Briggs et al.,1999) on Their considering of international students in US they said “the orientation of international students, visa advising, crisis intervention with international students and programs improving relationships between international and American students”

(McDowell &Montgomery, 2009) argue that international students can work together and help each other to get a successful learning experience at university even if they do not have a close social and cultural contact with domestic students. Due to the technology advancement, international students have different experiences in dealing and adapting the new environment and avoiding homesickness. The Internet assist the international students can be close to their family and friends back home by contacting with them in various ways. (Kelly, 2010) internet helps students to overcome homesickness, but spending a lot of time online communicating with those in their home country may also slow down the process of adapting to the new environment.

(Edwards &Tonkin, 1990) previous educational experience may contribute to the international students be listener in the class instead of speaking. (Lemov, D. 2010), having high expectations is important plan for students achievement for both who have high and low history of succession in their academic achievement. On reviewing of the gifted student expectations the research shows that, particularly striking are the effects of low academic expectations on gifted students. (Dalzell, 1998) the development of student’s potential rests, in part, on high expectations. The population of gifted students is one of America’s most valuable resources; it is fair to say that, from this pool of students, many of our future leaders will emerge. Graduate international students as the local students, all together they have expectation of wide the knowledge from the basic knowledge they have. (Minnesota University) Graduate students in all programs will gain expertise in a particular area of study and, especially in PhD programs, seek to expand the knowledge of that disciplinary field by discovering and pursuing a unique topic of scholarly research.

Studying on African students in U.K show that most students having high expectation on achieving their higher education because it they took it as the way of preparing them to be the leaders, (Carter & Maringe, 2007) African students have ambitions beyond gaining employment and pursuing a subject of their interest. They look at higher education as preparing them for leadership positions when they return to their countries. (Wan, 2001) one challenge facing the international students is financial issues, high living cost and financial burdens important issues concerns for most of international students. But this looks like vice versa for African students, where by many of them are from low-income/ middle-income countries, do not consider this as a problem hinder factors on their academic activities. The African students got adequate financial support from the Chinese government, this associated with bilateral trade cooperation between the African countries and China, that promoted by this two parts economic relation and cultural exchanges. (Obulutsa, 2013) says trade partnership between China and Africa is about to reach 200 billion US dollars in 2012. Bilateral economic partnership should also promote more academic relationships between two sides, from Governments and institutions, academic exchanging programs have been established and promoted, also the quota scholarship scheme for African students has increased, (McMahon, 1992). This might led to the high satisfaction levels among African students who study in top universities in Beijing with lower financial burdens.

Justification of the study

The study aimed at help to recognize how the international students have motivate to choose China as their study destination, the study add knowledge and awareness on selecting the study destination once a student need to study in abroad. Also since the study aiming at knowing about the challenges, it suggest the ways to overcome/reduce the challenges that international student face on their social living and in academic in general. Knowing about the expectations’ of international students it helps to provides understanding of the motives and reality toward studying in abroad.


The study applied in-depth understanding designed which is more phenomenological, the study will guide participants to describe in much detail about their experience on finding out what are the academic expectations and challenges of international African students toward their study at Beijing Universities. A sample of 9 graduate students whereby male 5, female 4 participated in study and were obtained through Purposive sampling procedure. The sample age ranges from 20 -35 years both males and females, group interview used to collect the data of the study.


Analyzing the findings the researcher intend to answer the research questions by interpreting the qualitative and offer discussions based on the findings related to the literature reviewed.

Many of the African students satisfied with the quality of education provided, all the respondents agreed that having the chance to study in china couldn’t be possible for them if didn’t awarded the scholarship, most were likely to study in china also because they believe that quality of education provided by universities in china is high compared to their home country universities. In explaining more about their satisfactory of the education quality most of them relate the quality with the world ranking of universities and development level that country attained, the following are some of the answers on the question, ” Are you satisfy with the quality of education provided in China?” The answer was yes/no but , if yes explain, and if no explain. All answered yes and the following were their more explanations;

China has attained high development level for a short period and only the good education system can make this possible’, ‘only quality education can bring development’, ‘quality education can make people to achieve more development’, ‘ quality education is what attract students’, ‘many student from developed country like Japan, U.S and European countries come to study in china this show how quality it is’

All participants who responded to the study are under the scholarship provided by government of china, in answering about scholarship, they said that the economics and trade relation between their countries and china made of them get the scholarship for studying in china and they agreed that by themselves they can’t afford the cost of studies and living in Beijing, china. (McMahon, 1992) Bilateral economic partnership should also promote more academic relationships between two sides, from Governments and institutions, academic exchanging programs have been established and promoted, also the quota scholarship scheme for African students has increased.

Most of the Africans expectations based on job orientation, they expect much on getting a job after finishing their studies. 25 participants out of 29 which is the 86.2 % participants replied that, studying in china will add their value on the job market competition in their home countries or elsewhere, they also mention the reason behind this is because most of China

Universities have higher status in the world than their home country universities. The question was what is your motive for studying in china? The answer to select was a.) To improve you Chinese language, b) to understand Chinese culture ( ), c) Status of china universities is high than my home country ( ), d) to prepare to get job ( ), e) Easier to enter university more than home country ( ), what are the reason for your answers above”

Most of the African international student preferred to work in china more than in their home countries, through their responding to the questions about their future plan after finishing the studies. 15 participants which are the same as 51.7% prefer to work in china, on their responding they say “good working condition’ ‘good salary compare to my county’ ‘getting experience of working condition in change’ ‘the China currency Is more valued than my county’s currency so little salary here is big amount in my county’ ’ good living condition here compare to my country’ 10 respondents which are the same as 41.3% they answer prefer to work in their home countries, and on replying this, they mentioned family saying that they face loneliness staying far from their relatives and friends, some said if they will go back to work on their home country, they will contribute something to their countries development. Remain 4 respondents which are the same as 13.7% like to pursue further education in china because they want to have higher qualification to be competitive on job market where ever they will be Language is a challenge that African international students in their social living. About all participants of participants agree that they face some difficulty in their social living due to the language barriers between them and Expectations and challenges of African students studying in China local people in and out of the campus and mostly who face this challenge are the new comer’s students. Most of them agreed that, to improve their Chinese language skills is the important for them to cope with the social life and understanding the Chinese culture. (Inose &Yeh, 2003) international students face many challenges such as language, culture, academics, finances, racial discrimination, and homesickness

Discussion and Conclusion

The study finds that, most of African student have higher expectations due to their high satisfaction quality education provided in Beijing Normal University in Beijing, China. Also they expect to improve their competitiveness in their home countries job market; also they took higher education achievement as the way of preparing them for leadership or managerial post on the job.(Carter &Maringe, 2007) study on African students in the U.K. suggested that, in contrast to domestic students, African students have ambitions beyond gaining employment and pursuing a subject of their interest. Further research are thus needed to explore whether African students studying in China have similar ambitions, and how international education in China can help them becoming leaders in their professional fields back home.

Even though international students are learning Chinese language, still the writing ability of these students not adequately developed. The Chinese authorities should have to consider that, before the students landing to china for studies should be taught little ability of understanding Chinese, this might help to facilitate the international students to cope the new social and learning environment, and this could possible through Confucius department that have been established in almost many universities in Africa and the world.

From also these findings the future research should explore how the poor understanding poor of local language can affect the academic expectations for international student.

The study found that expectations and challenges are almost similar for all African international students in the data sample. From the findings, there are number of factors that made students to achieve their expectations, from the participants who are the African international students’ who studying and living at the Beijing Normal University, they frequently mentioned language barriers, previous learning and living experiences, and cultural backgrounds. In social life Chinese language proficiency and cultural differences caused barriers to international students who had willingness and attempts to make friends with native Chinese speaking friends. On the other side in academic issues all of them agreed that no barrier in their learning and they are fully Involved on their academic works because their major of studies are taught in English, Although language proficiency was mentioned by many participants as one factor that hinder their full engagement in the social issues on and off campus, it was often cultural differences that thwarted not absorbed their efforts to be seen in the community they live in. It is not shock that international students feel more comfortable having friends and seeking assistance from students from their country, but if the university can find ways for international students to communicate not only with their own cultural circle this will increase their ability to achieve what they expect and lowering the challenges on their new studying environment level


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Title: Higher Education. Expectations and challenges of African students in Chinese Universities in Beijing