International student employability has been accorded increased emphasis in the internationalisation agendas, especially in major destination countries as it shapes universities' attractiveness to prospective international students. Having insights into returning graduates' employability in their home country has become critical given that a majority of international graduates return home after their overseas study. This study responds to this critical need by examining how foreign credentials are valued by employers in the field of accounting in China, based on in-depth interviews with employers, alumni and policymakers.
This study draws on a qualitative approach involving literature review and in-depth interviews with 28 key stakeholders: employers, returning graduates and policymakers in China and India. The key research question of the study is how foreign credentials are valued by employers in the field of accounting in China and India. This article focuses on the Chinese context. In-depth interviews with employers and policymakers focused on eliciting nuanced socio-cultural understandings as to perceptions and decisions associated with desirable graduate attributes and the relative value of credentials. Interviews with returning graduates aimed to understand how different capitals were mobilised to gain employment in the Chinese labour market.
The empirical findings of the study show that Chinese returning graduates could be seen to lack the localised knowledge needed to work in Chinese companies and ability to adapt to the local environment. However the possible development of a dual local and international guanxi through overseas study can be regarded as a marker of distinction in the home labour market. The associated value of such a dual guanxi signals the importance for Chinese international students to develop transnational networks while simultaneously maintaining their kinship, social and business networks locally during their overseas education.
The study provides fresh insights into a marked shift in China, with less of a preference for Western credentials, as compared to 10 years ago when overseas credentials were often regarded more favourably. Even though overseas study generally provides Chinese graduates with an exposure to international practices and global perspectives, whether such an overseas exposure and foreign language competency would be an advantage also depends on the business needs and sometimes the business model of organisations.
The authors would like to thank the reviewers for their very helpful feedback that helped them significantly improve this article, and the participants for sharing their valuable insights.Funding: Global Research Perspectives Program grant, CPA Australia.
Tran, L.T., Blackmore, J. and Rahimi, M. (2021), "“You are not as localised as I need”: employability of Chinese returning graduates", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 11 No. 5, pp. 949-965. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-09-2020-0221
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