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Chinese employers might not favor U.S. university graduates

Inside Higher Ed reports that companies in China — even foreign companies in China — prefer local university graduates for entry-level positions.

  • Applicants who had graduated from U.S. universities “were 18 percent less likely to get a call back than applicants who had attended Chinese universities,” according to research by Mingyu Chen, a Ph.D. student at Princeton University.
  • Going to a good school doesn’t help much: “Even applicants from the most selective U.S. universities…were 7 percent less likely to get a call back than applicants from the Chinese universities he categorized as least selective.”
  • But it could be about employee retention rather than an evaluation of skills: “Employers believe, correctly or not, that applicants from U.S. institutions have better options, making them harder to attract and retain than those educated in China,” Chen comments.
  • Also, the study only measured call-back rates for entry-level positions. Measuring career-long effects of overseas education would require a new study.

This study is contrary to the widespread perception of five or more years ago, when an American university degree, especially from an Ivy League school, was often seen as a golden ticket for landing a top job in China. But in the last couple of years, there have been more reports of Chinese students struggling to find employment when they come back home. This is part of the explanation for why colleges such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State are seeing declining Chinese student enrollment. There’s also the fact that in recent years, many more Chinese students have been returning to China, as the country has grown to support more jobs requiring higher education.

For more on the social and political side of the experience of Chinese students in the U.S. and what they think about returning to China, see Eric Fish’s piece on SupChina from last year: Caught in a crossfire: Chinese students abroad and the battle for their hearts.

Caught in a crossfire: Chinese students abroad and the battle for their hearts

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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