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China’s University Graduates and Chinese Students as Potential Immigrants

The rise of the new Chinese immigrant in Canada was also facilitated by the growing supply of university graduates in China since the 1990s. China substantially modernized its higher-education system in the 1990s. The changes were essentially components of market reform to widen university funding options, including increasing direct state investment, decentralizing central financing, allocating more power to local governments, diversifying financing sources to allow universities to generate revenue, and shifting much of the financial cost to students (Li et al. 2007; Wang 2001). Along with changes in university financing, the state also stopped providing free university education and guaranteeing job assignment in 1997 (Li et al. 2007). Reforms in higher education resulted in universities accepting more students and raising tuition fees to generate revenue.

Before 1993 some 600,000 students graduated at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in China annually. By 2001 the number had increased to 1.1 million (Fig. 17.4). The number continued to skyrocket, rising to 2.5 million in 2004, 4.8 million in 2007, 6.5 million in 2011 and more than 7 million in 2014. Other sources indicate that the gross enrolment ratio for tertiary education in China increased almost by three times from 8 % in 2000 to 23 %, compared with a global increase from 19 % in 2000 to 26 % in 2007 (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 2009).2

Expansion in universities after the 1990s produced an abundant supply of university graduates every year. Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, employers’ demand for new graduates in China increased only marginally while supply shot up, resulting in fresh undergraduate degree-holders facing a highly competitive job market (Chen 2004; Ding 2004). Prevailing market pressures compelled many university students to consider further study at home or abroad to increase their chances on the job market (Lietal. 2007).

Number of students graduated from institutions of higher education, undergraduate and graduate levels, the PRC, 1985-2014 (Source

Fig. 17.4 Number of students graduated from institutions of higher education, undergraduate and graduate levels, the PRC, 1985-2014 (Source: Data between 1985 and 2013 are from the China Statistical Yearbook, 2014, chapter 21, Education, National Bureau of Statistics, China Statistics Press; data for 2014 were retrieved from http://data.stats.gov.cn/english/easyquery.htm?cn=C01)

Data on the number of students from China going abroad to study and returning annually indicate a substantial pool of highly trained students remaining abroad (Fig. 17.5). Before the mid-1990s, fewer than 20,000 students went abroad annually, but by 2001 the number had reached 84,000, and by 2006 it was 134,000. After that the number rose rapidly to 229,000 in 2009, 400,000 in 2012 and 460,000 in 2014. In contrast, the number of students returning to the PRC annually rose at a much slower rate between 2000 and 2011 (Fig. 17.5). The space separating the two curves in Fig. 17.5 indicates the cumulative stock of students staying abroad as a result of the disparity between students going abroad from the PRC and returning home. Between 2002 and 2014, the difference between PRC students going abroad and returning added roughly 1.4 million students to the number of PRC students abroad.

Data on PRC students enrolled in Canada also indicate a rising trend since the 1990s. Between 1994 and 1999, visa students from the PRC in Canada numbered fewer than 7000 (Fig. 17.6). This increased to 29,739 in 2002, 40,021 in 2005, 50,446 in 2009 and 95,731 in 2013. Before

Number of PRC students who went abroad to study and number returned annually, 1985-2014 (Source

Fig. 17.5 Number of PRC students who went abroad to study and number returned annually, 1985-2014 (Source: Data between 1985 and 2013 are from the China Statistical Yearbook, 2014, Chapter 21, Education, National Bureau of Statistics, China Statistics Press; data for 2014 are retrieved from http://data.stats. gov.cn/english/easyquery.htm?cn=C01)

Total number of international students from the PRC in Canada with a valid permit by year end, 1994-2013 (Source

Fig. 17.6 Total number of international students from the PRC in Canada with a valid permit by year end, 1994-2013 (Source: Compiled from Facts and Figures, 2003 to 2013 (yearly), Temporary Residents, Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

the changes in immigration regulations in 2001 and 2002, international students who had completed their studies in Canada typically had to return to their home country if they wanted to apply for immigration. The changes in immigration regulations in early 2002 allowed them to apply for permanent residence in Canada after graduation. Thus international students became a fresh pool of human capital from which Canada could draw economic immigrants.

The number of university graduates in the PRC and of PRC students staying abroad has been growing since the mid-1990s. The surplus of university graduates, both graduates from the PRC and PRC students abroad, produced a pool of potential immigrants for Canada. A combination of Canada’s renewed demand for human capital and China’s surplus of university graduates created the conditions for a rise in the number of new Chinese immigrants in Canada.

 
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