Exploring Mongolian Ethnic Minority Students’ Higher Education Experiences in China and the Influence of Higher Learning on their Identity

  • Ran Qi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Research on ethnic minorities’ education in China has tended to focus on certain minority groups of the country but paid limited attention to the experiences of Mongolians. This study explores Mongolian students’ experiences in accessing and participating in Chinese higher education and how their higher learning experiences have shaped their sense of identity. The theoretical framework is based on Bourdieu’s notion of field, habitus, capital and the education and social reproduction theory. Furthermore, two theoretical concepts, identity and intersectionality, are applied and related to Bourdieu’s perspectives regarding identity and representation. An embedded mixed methods design is adopted that is principally qualitative and supplemented with quantitative data. Survey data and semi-structured interviews were used, including 30 participants from four higher education institutions. The challenges for Mongolians in accessing higher education and their different culture shocks in learning and socialising in universities are strongly influenced by their pre-university educational pathway, which is decided by the current educational structure. This reveals that Mongolian students need to be understood as a diverse rather than homogeneous group based on intersectional features such as their varying educational, social and economic capital. The tension between their original habitus and the new institutional habitus in higher education have impacted Mongolian young people’s social, personal, ethnic and national identity development. Educational inequalities are reproduced not only between ethnic minority and ethnic majority students but also inside the Mongolian group due to their multiple social positioning and power relations in the higher education field. This study contributes to the understanding of Mongolians’ higher education experiences in China and emphasises the multicultural diversity and potential inequalities in educational access, cultural adaption, and academic achievement of the Mongolian group.
Date of Award10 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorLisa Lucas (Supervisor) & Bruce Macfarlane (Supervisor)

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