“Half of Chinese students at elite US colleges don’t want to return”

While this article is based on a survey of a small group of Chinese students at elite US higher education institutions, there are parallels with the situation of Vietnamese students at all types of US colleges and universities.  Based on anecdotal evidence, the percentage of Vietnamese students who choose not to return home after completing their students and perhaps working for a time is probably in the range of 40-50%.  (Unfortunately, these statistics are either not kept by the US government or one would have to file a Freedom of Information Act request to get sufficient information to paint an accurate picture of this trend.)

Many Vietnamese students share some of the concerns of their Chinese peers and have some of their own:

  • lower salaries
  • a work environment that is not conducive to innovation and does not value and support professional development;
  • access to employment and career success that is based more on social connections than merit;
  • not treated fairly;
  • endemic academic corruption (for those who are planning a career in academia);
  • quality of relationships with colleagues often based on age; and
  • environmental pollution is a concern for some.


Courtesy:  New Mandala (http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2011/09/21/brain-drain-in-malaysia/)
Courtesy: New Mandala (http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2011/09/21/brain-drain-in-malaysia/)

Brain drain has been a continuing problem in many developing countries for several decades. China is no exception. According to a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, there were more than a million Chinese students studying abroad between 1978 and 2006 and 70% failed to return to China after graduation.

In an effort to lure top talent back to China, in recent years the Chinese government has been implementing various initiatives, such as the Thousand Talents Program for top scientists, to reward those who choose to return. Although these initiatives, along with the recent booming economy, have been able to attract more talent from overseas in the past decade, many of these Chinese are still not willing to give up their job in developed countries to move back to China.

My new research has examined the return intentions of overseas mainland Chinese students, looking at the push and pull factors on their decisions to stay or go.

Follow this link to read the remainder of this article and the author’s research results.

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