Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing and Midwifery

First Supervisor

Professor Lisa Whitehead

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Sara Bayes


This study presents a narrative inquiry of Chinese nursing students at Australian universities in order to examine these students’ motivations, learning experiences and future career planning. Australia seeks to attract international nursing students from China to maintain its economic advantage and alleviate its projected nursing shortage. In contrast, China desperately needs its best and brightest citizens who have trained abroad as nurses to return to China in order to cope with its current challenges in the healthcare system and nursing education. Little is known about the underlying factors that motivate Chinese nursing students to study in Australia, these students’ learning experiences at Australian universities, and whether or not these students will return to China after graduation.

This study undertook a narrative inquiry using the three-dimensional space narrative structure approach, with an epistemological perspective drawing on constructivist and interpretivist theory. Through interviews, the authentic voices of six participants’ stories were collected to capture the entire emotional, social, intellectual and reflective processes of each student’s motivations, learning experiences and future career plans. The research findings from this study are presented as both narrative and thematic representations. By exploring and representing each theme and narrative that emerged from the field texts, meaning was unpacked to provide insights to the ‘reality’ as seen by the study participants.

The findings revealed that the students’ key motivation to study in Australia was related to the possibility of permanent residency post-qualification. The decision to move was dynamic, with the participants describing cultural and social push and pull factors. Encouragement and support from peers and family were strong contributors to the motivation to study nursing and eventually work and live in Australia. Parents played an especially vital role in this decision-making process. In addition, the participants expressed a strong desire to maximise Australia’s opportunities and cultural experiences.

The participants’ experience of studying in Australia was characterised by the need to learn a new language, feeling lost in a new education system vastly different to the one at home, the challenge of making new friends and socialising, and eventually successfully completing their study and attaining their goals. The experience of being an international student was not described as easy. It requires taking risks, courage, determination, motivation and persistence to succeed. Through their lived experiences and reflections of their learning journey in Australia, the six participants reconstructed their personal identity and worldviews, which ultimately helped them locate their place in Australia.

The conclusion of the participants’ journey highlighted that their learning experiences have particular implications for international education, healthcare development, future educational connections and investment globally. The insight gained from this study can support the development of successful human capital investment strategies for all parties involved.

In the field of international student education, nursing education is relatively understudied. This thesis presents insight into the reality of international student migration through the lens of individual actors in the process, the students themselves.

Access Note

Content published as journal articles is not available in this version of the thesis due to copyright considerations. Access to Appendices G and H of this thesis is not available.


Paper Location