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Student Engagement for Sustainability of Chinese International Education: The Case of International Undergraduate Students in China


  • Mei Tian

    (School of Foreign Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China)

  • Genshu Lu

    (West China Higher Education Evaluation Centre & Institute of Higher Education, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China)

  • Hongbiao Yin

    (Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR., China)

  • Lijie Li

    (School of Public Policy and Administration, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China)


Student engagement has been attracting attention in the discussion of higher education (HE) quality. Despite the rapid increase of international students in China, little understanding has been gained for quality management on these students’ engagement in learning. This paper focuses on international undergraduate students in Chinese higher education institutions, exploring the nature and characteristics of their academic engagement and the environmental factors influencing the engagement. The discussion was based on a synthesis of the findings of two studies, i.e., an exploratory qualitative study following a small group of international students at a research university and a large-scale survey involving 1428 international students at 34 Chinese universities. The analyses revealed less than satisfactory levels of international students’ engagement, with a high proportion of the participants being passively or ineffectively involved in learning. The qualitative findings highlighted pedagogical and attitudinal factors that affected international students’ engagement. The survey results indicated six environmental factors, categorized into three groups, having significant effects on the respondents’ engagement. Although located in China, the analyses bear implications for practitioners striving for the sustainable development of international education in a broader range of contexts.

Suggested Citation

  • Mei Tian & Genshu Lu & Hongbiao Yin & Lijie Li, 2020. "Student Engagement for Sustainability of Chinese International Education: The Case of International Undergraduate Students in China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(17), pages 1-16, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:12:y:2020:i:17:p:6831-:d:402838

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Arcidiacono, Peter, 2004. "Ability sorting and the returns to college major," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 121(1-2), pages 343-375.
    2. George D. Kuh & Ty M. Cruce & Rick Shoup & Jillian Kinzie & Robert M. Gonyea, 2008. "Unmasking the Effects of Student Engagement on First-Year College Grades and Persistence," The Journal of Higher Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 79(5), pages 540-563, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jingwei Fan & Mei Tian, 2022. "Influence of Online Learning Environment and Student Engagement on International Students’ Sustainable Chinese Learning," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(17), pages 1-15, September.
    2. Jingwei Fan & Mei Tian, 2024. "Satisfaction with Online Chinese Learning among International Students in China: A Study Based on the fsQCA Method," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 16(3), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Junqi Zhu & Mengdi Gu & Li Yang & Shoukui Xun & Ming Wan & Jie Li, 2022. "Academic Adaptation of International Students in China: Evidence from the Grounded Theory and Structure Equation Model," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(1), pages 1-22, December.
    4. Junqi Zhu & Guangxia Li & Ming Wan & Shanshan Li & Liyan Sun & Jie Li & Xue Wang, 2022. "Survey Study of the Cultural Integration of International Students in East China under Ecosystem Theory," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(21), pages 1-21, November.
    5. Fenglong Yu & Qian Chen & Bing Hou, 2021. "Understanding the Impacts of Chinese Undergraduate Tourism Students’ Professional Identity on Learning Engagement," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(23), pages 1-16, December.

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