Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Education


College of Education and Human Services

First Advisor

Galletta, Anne

Subject Headings

Soft power, internationalization of Chinese higher education, China soft power and higher education, Nepal, Nepalese students, higher education policy of China, international education, Chinese culture, Confucius Institute, international students


Internationalization of higher education is a major characteristic of China's higher education policy. Accordingly, the Chinese government is fervently encouraging the spread of Chinese language and culture through Confucius Institutes, student exchange programs, recruitment of international students, and international collaborations. South Asia is no exception to China's higher education outreach. Against this background, this qualitative study examined experiences of South Asian students with regard to China's higher education program(s) in relation to the explicit and implicit aims of China's soft power policy. Soft power refers to the power of attraction and co-optation, which is based on a nation's intangible resources such as "culture, ideology and institutions" (Nye, 1990). A case study approach was employed by using Nepal as the site for an in-depth investigation into academic, socio-cultural and political experiences of Nepalese students in relation to China's higher education policy and programs. Soft power constitutes the theoretical framework. Data sources included interviews with 20 Nepalese students (including alumni) and six experts, You Tube videos, images, news stories, books, journal articles, documents, and reports. Findings indicate that whereas the Chinese political system--specifically governance--and foreign policy as well as certain traits of the Chinese society drew admiration from the Nepalese students, the Chinese education program was found deficient in brand reputation and Chinese cultural penetration remains challenging, while such issues as racism and color discrimination stood out as social ills in the Chinese society. The study bridges a critical gap in the existing literature that is largely exclusive of the South Asian region where China is rapidly strengthening its strategic foothold, as well as making a significant contribution to the literature on linkages between soft power and education by employing the educational soft power model. The findings should be useful to education policy analysts, specifically those who are associated with international education, Nepalese and Chinese policy makers, China observers and specialists, prospective foreign students in China, and students and scholars of international relations.