J. Johannesson, A. Hunnes

University of Agder (NORWAY)
Chinese foreign students in UK higher education numbered 87,895 in the 2013/14 academic year and this represent about 20% of foreign students in UK higher education (UKCISA 2015). However the reasons why Chinese foreign students select the UK for higher education is not clear and a significant question has been raised in the literature on the different approaches to learning among the Chinese students (Biggs, 1979, 2001; Niles, 1995; Kember, 2000; Ramburuth and McCormick, 2001;You and Jia, 2008; Sun and Richardson, 2012). Consequently this paper addresses these two questions. The theoretical underpinnings are based on Maslow’s (1943) theory of psychological needs used to assess the Chinese students’ motives to study in the UK and Biggs, Kember and Leung (2001) the Revised Two-factor Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) to access the Chinese students approaches to learning. From the two articles, a survey instrument was developed and administered to students at a UK university. A total of 176 correctly completed questionnaires were used to statistically analyse the results. Cronbach’s Alphas of .75 to .77 were observed which is somewhat higher than reported in previous studies (Biggs et al. 2001). The findings indicate that Chinese students’ prime motives for studying at a UK university are a fundamental psychological need to acquire knowledge, understanding and meaning as well as a need to enjoy a pleasant living and study environment. The findings indicate a strong relationship among marks in China and the UK, which can be used in the student admission process to evaluate applicants. Moreover a significant strong relationship was found among the Chinese students deep approaches to learning and success at both UK and Chinese universities but more so in China than UK and this raises the question of why? However no significant relationship was discovered among the Chinese students marks and surface approaches to learning. The findings refute a persistent argument in higher education literature regarding Chinese students’ use of surface approaches to learning for success at foreign universities (e.g. see Ballard and Clancy 1984, 1997; Murphy, 1987; Smulowich 1987; Sun and Richardson, 2012). The paper ends with a discussion on the implications for foreign student recruitment and teaching approaches.