My research project
Cultural Identity of Chinese Students in a Transnational University in China
Higher education (HE) is rapidly changing, and perhaps nowhere faster than in China. In addition to outbound Chinese student mobility, there has been an increase in various forms of transnational education (TNE) within the Chinese HE environment over the last 10 to 15 years. This thesis makes an original contribution to the literature in the sociology of education by unpacking Chinese students’ experiences in a TNE environment in China which, in turn, impacted on constructions of their cultural identities. The fieldwork included 31 semi-structured, arts-based, face-to-face interviews with students at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) as the case study. The study is grounded in double-analytical lenses: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Discourse Analysis, whereby cultural identity constructions were examined through the meanings of embodied experiences, as well as in and through discourse. Choosing XJTLU was a complex culturally-driven process, and was seemingly the second best alternative among other domestic choices. The transition period from a Chinese educational system to XJTLU has significantly impacted on the construction of the participants’ personal and HE learner identities and, although Confucian values still form the fabric of Chinese social ethics, new family values and relations are emerging. It is further argued that constructions of students’ cultural identities, analysed in relation to the articulation between their personal and cultural values, and their embodied self and agency, suggested potentially conflicting forces between values related to culture, educational backgrounds, and desired identities. This ongoing process of identity construction may have a profound impact on how these students see themselves, as HE students and Chinese youth, and their place in the world into the future, and by extension on the way China as a nation will image itself in its engagement with the rest of the world, particularly in a post-COVID-19 era.
With a background in Biomedicine and Linguistics, Paola has approximately 15 years of experience in teaching in higher education (HE), mostly in intercultural contexts (China, Australia, South America and the UK). Her most recent experience in China has inspired her PhD research. It is expected that upon completion of her PhD, further research in higher education, under an interdisciplinary approach, can be undertaken to contribute to education policies and practices, positively impacting the most important stakeholder in this scenario – HE students. Paola is also interested in cross-disciplinary research between the Social Sciences and Biomedical areas.
University roles and responsibilities
- Teaching Assistant- Qualitative Field Methods
- PG/R Mentor
- Teaching Assistant - Identity, Politics and Representation
- Teaching Assistant - Social and Political Thinkers
Affiliations and memberships
Sociology of higher education; sociological methods & research; migration and globalisation; identity, belonging and culture; action-oriented approaches, and multidisciplinary perspectives to research
2017- Current: PhD candidate in Sociology of Higher Education
This study explores how Chinese students construct their cultural identities in a transnational university in China (XJTLU), and which factors such as ethnicity, language, and the institution’s international staff, for instance, can affect their perception of identity (and how). Under a critical realist paradigm, grounded in Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this study is informed by semi-structured interview data (including an arts-based activity) with 31 Chinese students. It aims to explore their perceptions and learning experiences, and in turn the impact on their identity formation. This study expects to inform relationships between local and international socialisation and specific local (cultural) needs/issues. This can then potentially inform future teaching policies and practices. It also offers a unique look into perceptions of Chinese students, based on their personal accounts in a very specific context where intercultural interactions occur, in terms of how their identities are (re)shaped.
2019: Research Assistant
A research on different PhD pathways by publication: PhD by previous published work and PhD in the format of publications.
Using Research for Policy, Practice and Impact (SOC 2076) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Qualitative Field Methods (SOC 1026) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Identity, Politics and Representation (POL 1025) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Social and Political Thinkers (POL 1014) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Youth, Crime and Control (SOC 3057) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Explaining Crime and Deviance (SOC 1048) - Graduate Teaching Assistant
Previous Teaching Experience:
2015-2017: Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University- XJTLU (China) - EAP Lecturer and Seminar Tutor
2013-2015: University of Sydney (Australia) - EAP Tutor
Eiras, P. R. S. and Huijser, H. (2020 in press) Exploring spaces in-between: reimagining the transnational student in a transnational university in China. In: Brooks, R. and O’Shea, S. (2021) Reimagining the Higher Education Student. SRHE/Routledge Research into Higher Education Series -
Eiras, P.R.S. (2020 under review) Transnational higher education choices: Chinese students’ motivations and cultural positioning. Journal of Studies in International Education
Eiras, P. R. S. and Huijser, H. (2020 under review) A doctoral experience from a multicultural and multidisciplinary perspective. In: Mulligan, D. L. and Danaher, P. (Eds) Deconstructing Doctoral Discourses: Students’ Stories and Strategies for Success. Palgrave Macmillan
Barreto Filho, J. B., Eiras, P.R.S. and Golgher, R. R. (2001) N-Terminal amino acids of bovine alpha interferons are relevant for the neutralisation of their antiviral activity. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, 34, p. 663-667
Eiras, P.R.S., Barreto Filho, J. B., Golgher, R. R. and Santos, S. R. Q. (2000) Amniotic cell culture during different ages of gestation for karyotype analysis in bovine. Brazilian Journal of Veterinarian Research and Animal Science, 37 (4), p. 291-295