Chinese international students in Australia: A study of the transformative potential of education abroad

This longitudinal study of Chinese women students in Australian universities traces these students’ subjective experience of their journeys from China to Australia and on to their post-graduation destinations.

Chinese international students in Australia

This project is a 5-year study of Chinese women students in Australian universities, conducted by Associate Professor Fran Martin as a Future Fellowship project funded by the Australian Research Council. Associate Professor Martin is conducting in-depth ethnographic research with a core group of 50 female students from China who are studying or have studied in universities in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. From before their departure from China through to their postgraduate destinations, the study is building a picture of how these young women’s time in Australia affects both their gendered and their national-cultural identity.

The current wave of female educational migration from China reflects both young Chinese women’s mobile, transnational orientation and the increased individualisation of their life projects: a sense of “living for oneself” as much as living for others. Motivated by much more than just the pursuit of degrees, these young women are engaged in projects of individualised self-making through their educational journeys. Full of hopes for personal autonomy and cosmopolitan experience, they are as yet unconstrained by the gendered demands of married life while also geographically removed from everyday obligations to natal family.

In this context, the hypothesis that this project seeks to test through in-depth, longitudinal research is that young Chinese women’s experiences while studying abroad significantly affect their negotiation of the tensions between familial versus individual and national versus transnational identity: two sets of contradictions that centrally define the current generation of Chinese urban women’s sense of self.

Outcomes and activities

This project will result in a series of academic and policy-related publications. Key examples published or contracted to date include:

The project culminated in an international symposium, “Re-Worlding Chinese Transnationalisms,” held at the University of Melbourne, June 2-4 2020.

Project details


ARC Future Fellowship funding commencement: 2014 (active)

Research partners

The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Shanghai University

Project team

Associate Professor Fran Martin, Chief Investigator
Dr Can Qin, Project Research Assistant


Associate Professor Fran Martin

More information

Mobile Study Mobile Selves website