Understanding Transnational Academic Migration: U.S. Doctorate Recipients’ Choices of Returning to Chinese Academe


This study focused on Chinese doctoral recipients in social science disciplines in the U.S. and their decision making about returning to China upon graduation. In interviews of Chinese faculty who studied in the U.S. and Chinese PhD students currently in the U.S., we found that plans to return were associated with a blend of cultural, family, and academic ties. Political and economic factors interact with the influence of family ties. They were also apparent in the perceived prestige of studying in the U.S., which was believed to lead to a certain job offer from a Chinese university.


Comprendre la migration universitaire transnationale : Les choix des diplômés d’un doctorat américain de retourner dans le milieu universitaire Chinois

Cette étude a porté sur les universitaires chinois en sciences sociales aux États-Unis et sur leur décision de retourner en Chine après l’obtention de leur diplôme. Les entretiens avec des universitaires chinois ayant étudié aux États-Unis et des doctorants chinois actuellement aux États-Unis ont révélé que les projets de retour étaient associés à un ensemble d’éléments culturels, familiaux et universitaires. Les facteurs politiques et économiques interagissent avec l’influence des liens familiaux. Ils sont également liés au prestige perçu des études aux États-Unis, dont on pense qu’elles mènent à une certaine offre d’emploi de la part d’une université chinoise.


Die transnationale akademische Migration verstehen: Die Entscheidung von US-Doktoranden für eine Rückkehr in die chinesische akademische Welt

Diese Studie konzentrierte sich auf chinesische Doktoranden in sozialwissenschaftlichen Fächern in den USA und ihre Entscheidung, nach ihrem Abschluss nach China zurückzukehren. In Interviews mit chinesischen Dozenten, die in den USA studiert haben, und chinesischen Doktoranden, die sich derzeit in den USA aufhalten, fanden wir heraus, dass Pläne zur Rückkehr mit einer Mischung aus kulturellen, familiären und akademischen Bindungen einher gehen. Politische und wirtschaftliche Faktoren interagieren mit dem Einfluss der familiären Bindungen. Sie zeigten sich auch im wahrgenommenen Prestige eines Studiums in den USA, von dem angenommen wurde, dass es zu einem Jobangebot von einer chinesischen Universität führt.


Entendiendo la emigración académica transnacional: Opciones de retornar a la Academia China de los doctorados de Estados Unidos

Este estudio se centró en doctorandos chinos en disciplinas de ciencias sociales en Estados Unidos y en sus procesos de decisión de regresar a China tras la graduación. En entrevistas a profesorado chino que estudió en Estados Unidos y a estudiantes de doctorado que se encuentran actualmente en Estados Unidos, comprobamos que los planes de retorno estaban asociados con una mezcla de vínculos académicos, familiares y culturales. Los factores políticos y económicos interactúan con la influencia de los vínculos familiares. También se observaron en el prestigio percibido de estudiar en Estados Unidos, considerando que conducía a una cierta oferta de empleo por parte de la universidad china.

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The 985 project was started in 1998 to promote the development of the Chinese higher education system by building its world-class universities. The project included 39 universities.

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Hu, D. Understanding Transnational Academic Migration: U.S. Doctorate Recipients’ Choices of Returning to Chinese Academe. Int J Educ Vocat Guidance (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10775-021-09459-2

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  • Overseas returnee
  • Political economy
  • Academic culture