Student Intercultural Engagement in Transnational Higher Education: A Single Site Sample of a Transnational Institution Located in China

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Student Intercultural Engagement in Transnational Higher Education: A Single Site Sample of a Transnational Institution Located in China

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The emergence of transnational joint venture universities provides a new model of education internationalization where the stakes are high and where the opportunities to study the under-researched field of student intercultural engagement are multidimensional and compelling. Since their institutional mission statements often involve language about cultivating global citizens and equipping students with the knowledge and intercultural skills needed to thrive as leaders and operators in a globalized marketplace, the importance of student intercultural engagement becomes profound. In this study, I investigate student intercultural engagement at a Chinese transnational joint-venture university located in China and particularly to identify students’ self-reported personal and institutional factors that influence student intercultural engagement. I utilized a mixed-method exploratory sequential research design, first involving on-campus and classroom-based observations, followed by four focus group interviews with 27 students, an online survey completed by 246 students, and finally 15 one-on-one in-depth interviews to explore student intercultural engagement topics in depth. The findings are broadly consistent from all phases. Among both the Chinese and international students that participated in my research, substandard English skills was perceived to be the top barrier to student intercultural engagement on campus. Another important insight is that student intercultural engagement is viewed as an inherently positive paradigm by higher education students; however, overwhelming cases have proved that student intercultural engagement does not “just happen”. Consistent with my qualitative findings, the multiple linear regression model shows that besides language skills, other statistically significant predictors of self-reported student intercultural engagement level/frequency include cross-cultural group project experiences, whether one is an “initiator” in intercultural interaction, as well as academic level (i.e., being in graduate school is significantly predictive of greater student intercultural engagement level/frequency than being an undergraduate student). To improve student intercultural engagement and the students’ general experiences on campus, and further to enhance the institution’s cohesiveness and long-term viability, the university needs to take deliberate and strategic actions to help all students on campus, Chinese or international, to jump out of their comfort zone and enter the challenging but rewarding intercultural interaction and engagement. Specifically, I propose the following recommendations: (1) to raise student admissions requirement; (2) to increase international student ratio; (3) to develop joint induction programs for new Chinese students and international students combined; (4) to create an intercultural peer mentoring program; (5) to organize more cross-cultural group projects; (6) to train academic staff on professional development about intercultural engagement; and (7) to establish a Global Engagement Center.


University of Minnesota D.Ed. dissertation. February 2018. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: R. Michael Paige. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 282 pages.

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Qu, Wanling. (2018). Student Intercultural Engagement in Transnational Higher Education: A Single Site Sample of a Transnational Institution Located in China. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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