‘I am not what you label me’: Senses of belonging in a mainland Chinese university among cross-border Hong Kong students

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Abstract

China's grand strategies (i.e., the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area) have expedited the popularity of full-time degree-bearing study in mainland China. Associated with the exponential growth of inward student populations are proliferating concerns about the capacity of non-majority/non-local students to ‘integrate’ and belong in their host universities/colleges. The extant literature on university/college belonging often positions non-majority/non-local students as being academically and culturally deficient and subsequently being otherised in the host university community. Yet, their agency in managing the prevailing image and ‘otherisation’, and constructing their own sense of belonging to university, has received scant attention. This qualitative study is a substantive and theoretical contribution to the literature on university belonging, which has been preoccupied with non-majority/non-local students in the classic South–North international student mobility. This study deployed the concepts of politics of belonging and place-belongingness and canvassed the senses of belonging to university among inbound Hong Kong students in mainland higher education, which has witnessed a growing Hong Kong student population in recent years. The collected interview data indicated that these border-crossing Hong Kong students found themselves categorised as ‘underachievers’ with ‘poor mathematics’ yet ‘proficient in English’ in the mainland campus setting, where they did not feel they fully belonged. Responding to the paradoxical identity/belonging politics, they performed three forms of place-belongingness by dismantling, accommodating or counter-stereotyping the ascribed classifications in order to legitimate their own participation in the mainland Chinese university. Copyright © 2024 British Educational Research Association.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Early online dateApr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2024

Citation

Gao, F. (2024). ‘I am not what you label me’: Senses of belonging in a mainland Chinese university among cross-border Hong Kong students. British Educational Research Journal. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/berj.4013

Keywords

  • Agency
  • Belonging
  • Hong Kong students
  • Mainland Chinese universities

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