Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Three Levels of Push-Pull Dynamics among Chinese International Students' Decision to Study Abroad in the Canadian Context

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Three Levels of Push-Pull Dynamics among Chinese International Students' Decision to Study Abroad in the Canadian Context

Article excerpt

China is the world's leading provider of international students, with the United States being the international hub for students studying abroad. With over 974,000 international students in 2014/15 fiscal year, of whom over 304,000 are from China (Institute of International Education, 2016), United States continues to attract the greatest number of international students worldwide (UIS, 2016). In comparison, Canada ranks among top seven in the world, with Chinese students comprising the greatest segment (over 110,000 in 2014) of international student population (CBIE, 2016). However, the latest national survey of international students reveals that more than half (53%) of the 5,925 students surveyed chose Canada as their first-choice country for study abroad, while only 25% preferred the United States (CBIE, 2009).

The population of international students present in Canada is at an all-time high, and it has increased from 159,425 in 2003 to 293,503 in 2013 (CIC, 2013, 2014a). The numbers of international students from CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) is available up to year 2013; newer data is currently unavailable. In 2014, 43% of all international students in Canada were studying in Ontario, followed by 28.9% in British Columbia (CBIE, 2016). Pertinently, 58% of the international student population are enrolled in university-level programs, as opposed to other post-secondary (i.e., college, trades) and secondary or elementary levels (CBIE, 2016). Clearly, Canadian universities, those in Ontario in particular, have experienced tremendous growth in international student enrollment in the last decade.

The recent growth in the number of international students in Canada can be examined at three different yet interrelated levels: micro (individual decision-making processes), meso (academic marketing), and macro (national marketing). At the micro-level, Fama (2011) argued that the demand for education in Canada has sparked an increase in the number of international students who have enrolled at Canadian universities in recent years. Owing to this widely held premise, extant studies at the micro-level (e.g., Mazzarol & Soutar, 2001; Chen, 2008) have typically examined the decision-making process and students' motivation to study abroad. Nonetheless, the exploration of academic marketing, which constitutes just one aspect of the complex meso-level dynamics, is gradually growing in prominence. Meso-level studies (e.g., Çetin, 2003; Pimpa, 2005; Wilkins & Huisman, 2013) point to the reality of decreased government funding, which in turn creates the need for universities to increasingly compete for the international student market, as the panacea for individual institutions' financial slump. As a case in point, in 2008, the University of Toronto reported a loss of $1.3 billion, while York University lost 19% of its $300 million endowment fund (Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, 2010). These large amounts of money exemplify the seriousness of the financial difficulties experienced by even some of the most reputable universities in Canada. Finally, studies that have explored this phenomenon at the macrolevel, while limited, tended to focus on the role of the Government of Canada in explaining the recent growth in the international student population.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The push-pull theory of international migration is a classic model that is commonly used to explain student migration, as it allows identifying push and pull factors that work in conjunction to affect student decision-making (Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002). Push factors are the social, political, and economic forces within the home country that initiate a student's decision to pursue education overseas, such as high levels of student competition for university entrance due to overpopulation (Bodycott & Lai, 2012, p. 254). Pull factors, on the other hand, are those that induce students to choose one particular country over another, such as the knowledge and awareness of an institution's reputation, recommendations by peers and relatives, and ability to work in the host country (Mazzarol, Soutar, & Thein, 2001). …

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