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This forum on Education in China’s Greater Bay Area (GBA) serves to shed light on a significant theme about university graduate employability and entrepreneurship. In 2020, around 7.6 million students graduated from undergraduate programs at universities in China. When facing the fierce competition in the graduate labour market, more graduates are experiencing the risks of unemployment, under-employment and low salaries. Some have chosen or are encouraged to start up their own business as entrepreneurs. The first presenter will share the findings and insights from the experiences and perceptions of final-year undergraduates at one elite and one lower-tier university in Guangdong on how they understand and respond to the changing relationship between higher education and career opportunities. The second presenter will share her findings on individual graduate entrepreneurs’ agency, their own experiences, attitudes and views through case studies of graduate entrepreneurs starting up their own business in Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
The Changing Value of Higher Education as a Currency of Opportunity
The worldwide expansion of higher education participation has destabilised the value of higher education as a currency of opportunity. An increasing number of graduates are experiencing the precarity of unemployment, under-employment and low salaries. This study aimed to investigate how university students in China understand and respond to the changing relationship between higher education and career opportunities. The research team conducted 100 in-depth interviews with final-year undergraduates at one elite and one lower-tier university in a metropolitan city in Guangdong. The students were acutely aware of fierce competition in the graduate labour market. When asked “what matters most” for post-graduation career prospects, they identified elite universities and high-status fields of study as “traditional” currencies of opportunity. Nonetheless, to stand out in a competitive environment, they perceived a growing need to supplement higher education credentials through university experiences (internships, student governance, study abroad programmes), party membership, personal connections and (overseas) postgraduate education. Moreover, in a “race to the top”, they discussed how qualitatively distinctive university experiences and elite postgraduate education are “new” currencies of opportunity for high-status professional employment. The study demonstrates how intensified competition for graduate employment can result in an “opportunity trap”. The students were participating in an “arms race” to accumulate positional advantages for their post-graduation careers. The net impact of such efforts on a systemic level is to create an upward spiral in what students are expected to do in preparation for their post-graduation careers and further destabilise the value of higher education as a currency of opportunity.
Speaker: Dr Dian Liu, University of Stavanger
Graduate Entrepreneurship in China’s Greater Bay Area: Cases in Hong Kong and Shenzhen
University entrepreneurship has been greatly encouraged by the Chinese government as key strategy of enhancing innovation and creation during recent years. Despite of the increasing scholarly work on general growth of business incubators and start-ups, little is known about the subset of enterprises with university students or graduates as the major actors. Individual graduate entrepreneurs’ agency, their own experiences, attitudes, and views remain a myth, as well as the factors and processes that shape or refine their perspectives. Inspired by the concept of entrepreneurial opportunity, this study provides empirical illustrations of how entrepreneurship ideas were shaped and developed in intensified trend of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Greater Bay Area from university graduates’ perspective. Drawn upon case studies of graduate entrepreneurs starting up their own business in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, this study examines the recognition of entrepreneurship opportunities from the graduate entrepreneurs, as well as the challenges in activating such entrepreneurship opportunities in their start up practice. This study focuses on, firstly, the experiences and perceptions of the development of the start-ups and entrepreneurial practices. Secondly, the role of the different stakeholders, namely, policies at national and regional levels, and institutional enhancement, in facilitating the development of the start-ups and entrepreneurship practice. And thirdly, to reveal the reflections and perceptions on the positive and negative practices during the development of the start-ups for further policy recommendations.
Ewan Wright is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education and Human Development at the Education University of Hong Kong. He is also a Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change. He holds a PhD from the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong where he was a recipient of the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme. As a sociologist of education, his research focuses on international education, university preparation, and inequality in education. Over the past two years, his research has been published in well-regarded journals such as British Journal of Sociology of Education, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Educational Review, Globalisation, Societies and Education, and Studies in Higher Education.
Wei Haitao is Assistant Professor at the School of Sociology in Central China Normal University. His PhD is from the University of Hong Kong and his research interests focus on collective action, labor politics, labor process theory and rural society in China.
Dian Liu is currently an Associate Professor at University of Stavanger, Norway. After completing her PhD project at HKU on personal advancement of university graduates in job search, she is now working on graduate entrepreneurship and regional innovation (mainland China and China’s Great Bay Area), as well as internationalization of higher education (in comparison between China and Norway). At the University of Stavanger, she is leading a research group on ‘Education, Work and Social Cohesion’ with colleagues from diverse scientific disciplines. The group addresses research problems in intertwined aspects, such as social and cultural inequality in relation to graduate employment and entrepreneurship, and cross-cultural mobility in working life. Her work has been published in leading academic journals such as Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, Journal of Education and Work, and by academic presses such as Routledge and Springer. She has been invited to give keynote talk at Sociological Review Foundation Series in the UK, and for seminars at prestigious universities, such as City University of Hong Kong. Her work has, recently, received ‘Outstanding Young Researcher’ award at her university.
Chair & Discussant: Prof Cheng Kai-ming, The University of Hong Kong
Speaker: Dr Yanju Shao, City University of Macau
This presentation examines the complexity and dynamics of Hong Kong students’ choice to pursue undergraduate education in Mainland China under the context of “one country, two systems.” This study mainly draws on primary data from in-depth interviews of 51 Hong Kong students studying in Mainland universities. Qualitative approach of inquiry is adopted to probe into the underlying reasons and processes undergone during the educational choice. Academic factors push Hong Kong students away from local universities due to the failure of getting admissions in preferred programs or universities, and pull them toward Mainland universities due to attractions of specific universities and programs. During three phases of decision-making process, different influencing factors have conditioned three orientations: pragmatists enrolled in their aspired programs as the first choice, achievers utilized a fast-track path to enter elite universities and underachievers treated such study opportunity as a last resort for a degree. This study contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics of educational choice to higher education in Hong Kong at a strategic point of time. It explains how the macro political/policy and sociocultural contexts, the institutional influences of hosting universities and sending secondary schools, perceived parental influence and students’ personal characteristics have shaped students’ college choice.
Chair: Dr Jisun Jung, The University of Hong Kong
Discussants:Prof Gerard Postiglione, The University of Hong Kong; Dr Ma Jinyuan, Southern University of Science and Technology
Speaker: Dr Hayes Tang, The Education University of Hong Kong
The Strategic Role of World-class Universities in Regional Innovation System: China’s Greater Bay Area and Hong Kong’s Academic Profession
This presentation examines the strategic role of world-class universities and the international academic profession in the regionalisation project of China’s Greater Bay Area (GBA). Focusing on the case of Hong Kong, it engages in policy and stakeholder analysis and addresses three key research questions: (1) What are the competitive advantages and potential strategic role of Hong Kong’s universities and academic profession in the regionalisation of innovation systems in the GBA? (2) What is the role of the governments in the regionalisation processes? (3) What are the expected opportunities and challenges offered by the GBA policy initiatives for the future development of Hong Kong’s universities and academic profession? Hong Kong-based scientists and researchers possess the competitive advantages of basic research and international partnerships. They are highly regarded by the Chinese central government as they can play an important role in achieving China’s aspiration of becoming a global technology power. The paper illustrates the way in which the GBA regionalisation project offers a wealth of empirical cases for understanding of the role of international social capital in an entrepreneurial knowledge economy, dynamics between basic and applied research, as well as interactions and tensions in the Triple Helix relationship of university, government and industry. It adds novel contextual understanding to the literature of the Triple Helix model, which largely draws on inductive theorising from western successful innovation cases.
Speaker: Ms Zhu Kejin, Southern University of Science and Technology
An Empirical Study on the Correlation Between University Discipline and Industrial Structure in the Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao Greater Bay Area
This presentation examines the correlation between university discipline and industrial structure in the context of the integration and development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). It aims to determine the industrial structure deviation, and further identify human resource shortages and complementarity through the lens of the university discipline layout in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau of the GBA. A Pearson correlation approach was employed to determine the magnitude and strength of the relationship between regional university discipline and industrial structure in the GBA. The most significant empirical result suggests that industrial structure deviation exists in the secondary industries of both Guangdong and Hong Kong. This indicates the complementarity between regions of the GBA: the number of science and engineering talents graduating from the universities in Hong Kong exceeds the demands of Hong Kong’s local needs, while the science and engineering talents cultivated by universities in Guangdong cannot satisfy the needs of its secondary industries. Based on its findings, this study calls for a talent ecosystem that is beneficial for talent flow, talent sharing, and talent cultivation in a complementary manner.