Skip navigation
Scholarly Communication

Transformations through learning: the experiences of mainland Chinese undergraduate students in an English university

Su, Feng (2010) Transformations through learning: the experiences of mainland Chinese undergraduate students in an English university. Doctoral thesis, University of Liverpool.

This is the latest version of this item.

PDF (Renamed file)
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives.



This PhD thesis explores the experiences of the increasing number of Chinese undergraduate students located within the UK higher education system. In order to ensure a positive learning experience for these students, and to facilitate the development of their confidence and independence in learning, it is essential that the particular needs of the Chinese students are fully understood and addressed. This thesis is premised on the assumption that students‘ own perceptions of their needs are central to this task. The study contributes to the literature on international undergraduate students‘ experience within the UK. It develops an analytical framework based upon the Chinese 'contexts of origin‘ of these students, their UK 'contexts of destination‘ and the 'institutional learning contexts‘. The framework as outlined in the chapters comprising Part 1 views the mediation of cultural difference as central to the resolution of academic challenges faced by Chinese students. Within this framework the 'contexts of origin‘ are understood with reference to Chinese geopolitical and geo-economic environments, Chinese traditions and education values, and the Chinese education system; the UK 'contexts of destination‘ are elaborated in terms of the development of UK higher education, the internationalisation and marketisation of UK higher education, and the literature on international students‘ overall experience; finally, the 'institutional learning contexts‘ involve an examination of the challenges posed by the academic conventions of UK higher education and of the coping strategies developed by the students. As outlined in Part 2, the study is based on semi-structured interviews and autobiographical accounts of 18 Chinese undergraduate students in an English university. Following from a discussion of the methodology employed, Part 3 provides an analysis of the evidence gathered in the course of the study. This analysis is organized around three interconnected themes: 'communities of learning‘, 'learning across language boundaries‘, and 'becoming an independent learner‘. These themes emerged from both the development of the analytical framework and from the initial round of data analysis. The study argues that the challenges faced by Chinese undergraduate students within the UK are culturally, socially and linguistically constituted and cannot therefore be understood simply as technical and narrowly study-related concerns. Their development as independent learners is formed by their motivation to learn and a wide range of capabilities acquired during their study in the UK. Part 4, which comprises the concluding chapter of the thesis, draws out some wider implications of the study for the education of overseas students within the UK higher education system. These include stronger institutional and departmental support, enhanced professional awareness and practice to facilitate transition, and the creation of a social space for cultural mediation – a 'third place‘ – within which to negotiate common understandings and practices. Throughout, the emphasis is on the support needs of overseas students as defined and understood by the students themselves and as interpreted by a researcher who is himself a Chinese student studying within the UK higher education system.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > L Education (General)
Departments, Research Centres and Related Units:Academic Faculties, Institutes and Research Centres > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
ID Code:1498
Deposited On:23 Mar 2011 16:30
Last Modified:19 May 2011 10:57

Available Versions of this Item

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Full text only
Peer reviewed only

Cross Archive Search
Top 50 authors
Top 50 items
[more statistics]

These pages are maintained by Library Staff @ University of Liverpool Library


All pages © The University of Liverpool, 2004 | Disclaimer | Accessibility | Staff | Students