CERA 2019 Conference Programme


Keynote speakers


Prof Qing Gu

Qing Gu is Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning (LCLL) and Professor of Leadership at the UCL Institute of Education. She is the Immediate Past Chair of the British Association of Comparative and International Education(BAICE) and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Professional Development. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change (APCLC) at the Education University of Hong Kong, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Transnational connections, competences and identities: experiences of Chinese international students after their return ‘home’

International students constitute a substantial and growing mobile population globally. However, as yet, the experiences of returnees and the ways in which their overseas studies impact on their identity and professional and personal lives over time have been under-researched areas. In this article we employ concepts from theories of transnationalism as a framework for the analysis of the experiences of Chinese graduate returnees. The empirical basis for the article is a 20-month, two-stage, mixed-method study of 652 Chinese students who returned home for work on completion of their degrees in UK universities over the last 25+ years. Evidence suggests that their journeys of studying abroad and returning home are dynamic and interconnected transnational experiences. Such experiences are avenues for diverse social networks that reinforce a complex cosmopolitan identity and awareness. They are, also, avenues for transnational(ised) new competences, skills and worldviews, which are increasingly valued by the students themselves upon return home. Irrespective of differences in their demographics and backgrounds, studying and living abroad was perceived by most returnees in our research as a profound identity transformating experience. These new connections, competences and identities enabled them to view and live life with a new sense of self at ‘home’ and, as a result, function in ways that continued to distinguish themselves from those around them over time. The findings have implications for higher education institutions and agencies that are concerned with enhancing the quality of university internationalisation. They also have implications for a broadened empirical and conceptual understanding of transnationalism.


Prof Catherine Montgomery

Catherine Montgomery is Professor of International Higher Education in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. Catherine’s research focuses on internationalisation of higher education and she has a particular interest in transnational higher education in China and East Asia. Catherine’s recent work focuses on international higher education mobilities, mainly with reference to flows of international students and considers what this can tell us about the changing landscapes of global higher education.

Global capital and talent circulation? The role and meanings of Chinese higher education international scholarships

International education has long been characterised by tensions between economic and philanthropic drivers. Economic or colonial motivations for engagement with international higher education have historically intertwined with philanthropy and aid; and the tensions between the intensification of elite international higher education and equal access to university education have increased over recent decades. The allocation of cross-border scholarships between the developed and developing world can generate insight on these tensions and scholarships can also illuminate nation states’ use of higher education in their soft power and knowledge diplomacy ambitions. The transnational movement of international scholars can also shed light on the contradictions between well-being and inequalities in international higher education.

This paper explores the extent and impact of China’s scholarship provision for higher education (HE) to international students located in the ‘Global South’, in particular to countries along the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. There has been a huge amount of investment in infrastructure, roads, railways and industry along the way and this has included and influenced the development of international higher education, scholarships being a key part of this. The paper will consider the meanings of these scholarships and suggest three possible interpretations: scholarships as economic investment, geo-political and/or as global capital or talent circulation. The paper explores the tensions between how scholarships are promoting well-being and the reproduction of inequalities. Focusing on China’s scholarships programmes could provide a lens on how new economies are driving forward their HE strategies and promoting international HE as part of their own social, political and economic development. China’s deployment of scholarships may also give insights into the future of international higher education. 


Prof Prue Holmes

Prue Holmes is Professor, and Director of Postgraduate Research in the School of Education, Durham University, United Kingdom. She researches in the areas of intercultural and international education, languages and intercultural communication, and intercultural dialogue. Prue has also taught English language and intercultural education in higher education in China, Hong Kong, Italy, and New Zealand. She is Principal Investigator of the AHRC GCRF-funded project “Building an intercultural pedagogy in higher education: Culture, identity, and language” (AH/S003967/1); and Co-Investigator on the Erasmus+ project “Resources for Interculturality in Chinese Higher Education” (RICH-Ed). She chairs theInternational Association of Languages and Intercultural Communication (IALIC) and co-edits the Multilingual Matters book series Researching Multilingually.

Mobility and the “Belt and Road”: Interculturality in Chinese Higher Education

Interculturality, including the development of students’ intercultural competence through English, is receiving heightened attention in policy documents; among researchers and teachers of English language; in the context of the internationalisation of Chinese Universities; and in light of China’s economic and cultural expansion, as evidenced in the “Belt and Road” initiative. In this presentation I discuss a research and pedagogical approach for developing an intercultural pedagogy that seeks to build Chinese students’ intercultural competence in the contemporary Chinese context. The research is grounded in a Chinese-European joint project, RICH-Ed (Resources for Interculturality in Chinese Higher Education)1. A collaborative team of Chinese and European researchers and teachers are co-constructing a “non-essentialist” intercultural pedagogy which attempts to harmonise embedded and emergent understandings of intercultural communication theory and method in China with those developed in the global North, e.g., as inspired by the IEREST project (Intercultural Educational Resources for Erasmus Students and their Teachers)2. The presentation focuses on the conceptual, methodological and pedagogical matters (on which I am leading, as the Durham University partner) that inform an intercultural communication pedagogy for the formation of Chinese youths—“glocal talents”—educated individuals who can think globally, but act locally (Feng, 2018).


Prof Lee Elliot Major

Lee Elliot Major is Britain’s first Professor of Social Mobility. Appointed by the University of Exeter to be a global leader in the field, his work is dedicated to improving the prospects of disadvantaged young people. He was formerly Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust the UK’s leading social mobility foundation. Lee is a founding trustee of the Education Endowment Foundationwhich has carried out 100s of major research trials in England’s schools. He is a senior visiting fellow at the LSE’s International Inequalities Institute and an Honorary Professor at the UCL Institute of Education. He commissioned and co-authored the Sutton Trust-EEF toolkit, a guide used by 100,000s of school leaders and replicated across the world. Lee regularly appears in national broadcast and print media, commenting on education and social mobility issues. He has served on several Government advisory bodies and presented several times to the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

Social mobility and its enemies

The uncomfortable truth is that we are all, to some extent, enemies of social mobility. Far from acting as the great social leveller, the education system in the UK has been commandeered by the middle classes to retain their advantage. In his recent book, co-authored with LSE economist Stephen Machin, Lee Elliot Major concludes that the dream of just doing better, let alone climbing the income ladder, is dying for young people today. The book calls for radical steps to address Britain’s low social mobility. Failure to do so, it warns, will lead to deeper societal divides and the prospect of social unrest. 'Social Mobility and Its Enemies' is the most comprehensive account ever published on Britain’s low social mobility. It reveals how the rich and poor are destined to stay on the same rungs of the economic or social ladder – at great social and economic cost to the nation. The book will be published in China in 2020.


Dr Johanna Waters

Johanna Waters is a Reader in Human Geography and Migration Studies at University College London in the UK. Previously she has taught at the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Liverpool. She has written extensively on issues relating to Chinese migration and education, including a monograph entitled Education and Migration in the Chinese Diaspora (published by Cambria Press). Her latest book, written with Rachel Brooks, is called Materialiteis and Mobilities in Education (Routledge). She is co-editor of the journal Migration and Society and her current project is looking at cross-border schooling between Shenzhen and Hong Kong

Rhythms, flows and structures of cross-boundary schooling: educational mobilities between Shenzhen and Hong Kong

This paper explores the phenomenon of cross-boundary schooling (CBS), where children undertake a daily, border-crossing commute to school and back again.  The paper draws on recent fieldwork undertaken at the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border, where tens of thousands of children cross for schooling every week day. The paper focuses on two particular aspects of CBS – materiality and the role of habit and rhythm, in directing, guiding and cajoling children to conform to an extremely rigid and regimented daily routine.  We found that the material structures that make up the border are crucial in enabling CBS to ‘function’ and that notions of rhythm and habit are extremely useful for understanding how the ‘flow’ of educational mobilities is achieved. At the same time, we considered instances where flow was disrupted, rhythms were changed and individuals somehow resisted the material constraints of the border. The paper seeks to contribute to interest in materialities and mobilities in education and beyond.

Professor Yaojun Li

Yaojun Li is Professor of Sociology at Department of Sociology and Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research, Manchester University, UK, and is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). His research focuses on social mobility and social stratification, with particular regard to educational and occupational attainment, labor market position, social capital, ethnic integration, and happiness and well-being in British and Chinese societies, and he also conducts research on US, Australian and Qatari societies. He has published over 100 journal papers, book chapters and official reports in English and is the sole, lead or corresponding author for most of his work. He has conducted around 20 research projects as PI or Co-PI totaling around £7m funded by academic and government agencies in Britain, China, USA, Australia and Qatar.  His work has appeared in leading sociology journals such as American Journal of Sociology, British Journal of Sociology, European Sociological Review, Sociology, British Journal of Political Studies, British Journal of Sociology of Education, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Social Science Research, Journal of Ethnic Minority Studies, Ethnicities, Journal of Happiness Studies, Social Indicators Research, Work, Employment and Society, Contemporary Social Research, Comparative Social Research, Demography, Comparative Islamic Studies, Sociological Research Online, and Ageing and Society. He has written many official reports for government organizations and think-tanks such as the House of Lords, Cabinet Office, Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, Runnymede, Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford University, Fawcett Society, Policy Exchange, and Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He edited a book on Social Capital (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015), is editing another book on Social Inequality in China (with Yanjie Bian) and is co-authoring a book on Social Mobility (with Anthony Heath).

Does education promote social mobility in China?

This study examines intergenerational social mobility in China in terms of both class and educational mobility. Drawing on national representative surveys from 1996 to 2015, the analysis initially focuses on absolute and relative rates of class mobility for men and women in the last few decades before turning to educational mobility. With regard to the absolute mobility, we found, for men and women alike, a high level of total mobility, with upward mobility outstripping downward mobility, and with long-range upward mobility outstripping long-range downward mobility, which is due to the massive occupational restructuring brought about by the reform policies. With regard to relative mobility, we found, however, little evidence of social progress but rather a trendless fluctuation over time, coupled with growing social rigidity across the cohorts, especially for men. Rural women in China faced the greatest social disadvantages in social mobility. As for education, we found a massive improvement in educational qualifications for the youngest cohort who has benefited from the expansion of higher educational sector in 1999. Yet there is also clear evidence of increasing class inequality in educational attainment. Economic development goes with increasing social disparity with education serving to entrench class rigidity.

Roundtable discussion

Vocational education: Insights and experiences from the UK

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Prof Martin Doel CBE

Martin Doel was appointed as the first Further Education Trust for Leadership Professor of Leadership in Further Education and Skills at University College London (Institute of Education) in April 2016 after having previously been the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) from 2008. Prior to this Martin served for 28 years in the Royal Air Force where his final appointment was as Director of Training and Education for all three-Armed Services, working in the Ministry of Defence, the largest employer of apprentices in the UK.


Prof Sandra McNally

Sandra McNally is a Professor of Economics at the University of Surrey. She is Director of the Centre for Vocational Education Research, London School of Economics and is also Director of the Education and Skills Programme, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics. Research interests include economic evaluation of government policies in schools and further education and labour market returns to education and training. She is a co-editor of the Economics of Education Review.

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Dr Stephen Vickers

Stephen Vickers holds a PhD in International Studies from the University of Warwick, and is a qualified teacher and company secretary. He has worked for most of his career on the development and operation of qualifications, their assessment and awarding. He followed fifteen years in this capacity at the University of Oxford with three years at the University of Cambridge. He then became Quality Assurance Manager, and briefly Head of GNVQ Development, at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, then the regulator of the curriculum for England. From 2000 to 2006 he served as Chief Executive of the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health, and started its transformation from a UK awarding body to one with a global reach. It is now the world’s premier awarding body in the field. From 2006 to 2009 he served as Chief Executive of the British Accreditation Council, and from 2009 to 2016 as Chief Executive of the Vocational Training Charitable Trust. He is a member, and was for six years chair, of UK NARIC’s Qualifications Standards Committee. He was until recently Hon European Officer of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, and worked hard to assist in comparability of qualifications across boundaries.

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Marguerite Hogg

Marguerite Hogg has 23 years of international education experience in the UK further education and skills sector. She has been working with the Association of Colleges since 2007 and leads AoC’s engagement in international projects as well as supporting member colleges in their internationalisation work. She also leads AoC’s involvement in EU projects and policy. In previous consultancy contracts she has worked as an adviser on Further Education to Education UK Partnerships at the British Council (now Services for International Education Marketing) and has, more recently, completed a piece of work developing a set of internationalisation case studies from UK colleges for the British Council Skills team.


Dr Kai Liu

Kai Liu is the CEO of New Beacon Group, the largest overseas inward education investment in the midland region of the UK with an aim to establish a new and innovative independent University. He is also the chair of YanFu Foundation and visiting fellow of the University of Greenwich and have research publications in international education and intercultural communication.


CERA-BERA academic writing workshop, 12 June 2019

Please see details and book a ticket here.