Positional competition among Chinese University Graduates

19th July 2022 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Po YANG, Graduate School of Education, Peking University, China; Zhitang LIANG, Yenching Academy, Peking University, China; Benjamin Mulvey, Faculty of Education and Human Development at the Education University of Hong Kong; Ewan Wright, Faculty of Education and Human Development at the Education University of Hong Kong

Location: Zoom webinar, registration required

Global higher education expansion has produced many unintended consequences. In the context of limited supply of elite job positions in labor market, tertiary expansion can lead to cohort crowing and exacerbate inequality in graduate employment.

This panel introduces two papers on Chinese college graduates’ experiences. The first paper, titled “Effort or pedigree? A Study on Unequal Employment among Chinese Elite University Graduates”, focuses on the elite reproduction in elite universities, using multiple explanatory cases with thick description based on interview data. Its analytical framework is generated from theories of boundaries and positional conflict theory. It identifies three strategies for elite college students’ career advancement, namely “positioning, ranking, and leaping forward”, through which individuals from privileged backgrounds benefit most from resources and opportunity stacking in elite education circle. Internship becomes the bridge between elite education circle and elite employment circle.

The second paper, titled “Global and local possible selves: Differentiated strategies for positional competition among Chinese university students”, develops a neo-Weberian reading of involution to construct a framework using positional conflict theory and the concept of ‘possible selves’. It investigates how final-year university students from three social class factions—rural, urban non-elite and urban elite—envisage, plan and strategies for their future careers. This study demonstrates how social class is deeply connected to the scale of the competition—national or global—that students perceive themselves to be implicated in.

Presenters will be Po YANG, Zhitang LIANG and Benjamin Mulvey, while Ewan Wright will be a discussant.

This webinar is part of the free public seminar programme hosted by the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE).