‘I think I am…’ – a qualitative study of Chinese students’ identity formation process in an international branch campus in China

  • Fang YU

Student thesis: PhD Thesis


This thesis discusses identity and its formation of 45 Chinese undergraduate students in an international branch campus in China. The qualitative data collected in loosely-structured interviews reveal the complexity of their identity and formation process in their life trajectories in this university (TU). Giddens’s idea of anticipation of identity and Archer’s typology of reflexivity are employed as the two major theoretical and analytical devices in this research. These students’ interview accounts demonstrate that they explored and constructed their self/identity in the process of adaptation to TU and a social reproduction of the TU culture. Meanwhile, the TU context – the structure they are involved in – provides certain space for their agential powers (agency) to guide their decision-making and action-taking. This research lets students speak for themselves about ‘who they think they are’ with minimum researcher intervention, rather than fitting them into any pre-designated identity mode/theory such as an Eriksonian stage mode. Accordingly, this research is more open to ‘possibilities’ emerging in my students’ personal development. Additionally, this research supports and expands Archer’s hypothesis of reflexivity by putting it into practice in my empirical investigation and creating particular ‘agency-structure interaction cycles in individual identity formation’ based on it. This research also provides a potential solution to hybridizing habitus and reflexivity in understanding the relationship between agency and structure in this era of late modernity.
Date of Award8 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Univerisity of Nottingham
SupervisorJohn Lowe (Supervisor)


  • identity formation
  • international branch campus
  • Chinese college students
  • typology of reflexivity

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