Jingran Yu won the BERA 2021 Doctoral Thesis Award for her thesis “Imaginative travellers in-situ: A case study of Chinese students at a UK transnational Higher Education institution“
You can read the abstract below:
This thesis explores the implications of Chinese students’ experiences of transnational education in China for their future socio-spatial mobilities. It will also shed light on the potential of transnational education for the alleviation of global socio-spatial inequalities.
The research is based on a qualitative case study of the University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China (UNNC). As the first Chinese–Foreign Cooperative University, UNNC offers a unique educational experience which is both locally embedded in China and transnationally connected to the cosmopolitan world. Incorporating ethnographic and interpretivist approaches, the research draws on UNNC Chinese students’ own situated accounts of their experiences, contextualised within a thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the university campus. Grounded in the new mobilities paradigm (Sheller and Urry, 2006), it illustrates the case study’s educational space as mobile, where mobilities and materiality converge, and mediated by transnational imaginations; it presents the Chinese students as ‘imaginative travellers’, who have never physically been abroad but whose being and belonging have been constantly informed and negotiated by their everyday experiences in a cosmopolitan space. As a result, it argues that the UNNC experience has improved Chinese students’ cosmopolitan competence and implies a cosmopolitan orientation to their future trajectories, but the extent to which individual students are influenced is limited by and contingent upon their durable, transposable habitus.
This research contributes to the growing but still small body of transnational education studies, and offers particular insights into the Chinese–Foreign Cooperative University as a newly recognised form of international branch campus. Perceiving cosmopolitanism as the new cultural marker of distinction, it highlights the value of trans-national education for enabling student experiences of being ‘both here and there’, instead of being ‘either here (domestic education) or there (overseas education)’, through their intermittent presence in and absence from various sociocultural settings in both physical and imaginative forms. Thus, transnational education shows great potential for mobilising educational resources globally to less developed areas and cultivating cosmopolitanism within a local setting, hence embracing less privileged students, and therefore carrying profound implications for alleviating global socio-spatial inequalities.