Hongxia Shan

Associate Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Immigration and adult education and learning
Lifelong learning
Gender and work
Prof. learning

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Research Methodology

Community-based participatory (action) research
Institutional ethnography
critical discourse analysis


Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows

Migration and adult education and learning; Lifelong learning in Asia; Work and learning; 

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These videos contain some general advice from faculty across UBC on finding and reaching out to a potential thesis supervisor.

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


#greatsupervisors appreciation @edstubc #ubc Hongxia Shan, @AnnetteMHenry, and Shauna Butterwick, my transnational mentors and allies


It's Supervisor Appreciation Week at #UBC. Kudos to my #GreatSupervisors Dr. Alison Taylor and Dr. Honxia Shan @edstubc for challenging my thinking while supporting and sharing their wisdom with me!


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

The meaning of home : untold stories of people from Dadaab Refugee Camp studying at Canadian postsecondary institutions (2023)

The movement from one’s homeland, especially in cases of forced migration and displacement, is often accompanied by intense feelings of unexpected dislocation along with the demands of adjusting to an entirely new environment. The meaning of home is complex for all of us, however for people in refugee situations it is further complicated through its multiple and contradictory meanings. This research considers the meaning of home and how this may shift once people leave the turbulent setting of refugee camps and resettle in new places. This study employed narrative inquiry with five participants who lived in Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya and came to Vancouver, Canada for post-secondary education. Although each participant’s meaning of home is distinct and unique, analysis of the data revealed three shared themes:1) Permanency or fluidity of home is constructed as related to traditions and lived experiences.2) Home is understood in terms of peace, safety/security and freedom.3) Home and ancestral place are not mutually exclusive. Decolonization theory from the perspectives of Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire was used within the context of forced displacement as the theoretical framework. Decolonization theory is important and necessary at different levels of migration governance to establish non-exploitative relationships instead of replicating structures of oppression. Decolonization is not an end point but a life-long process requiring constant dismantling and re-creation. We don’t always get to decide where we call home, and many times it is others who decide. Our feet may leave a place, but not always our hearts. Even though we often don’t think about it, home is an important concept that is associated with the sense of belonging, not only in physical terms, but also in terms of security, comfort, inspiration, hope and peace. Each person’s meaning of home will be unique and connected to different experiences that are embedded within their heart, mind and lived practice. No matter how one defines their home, in the end, it also very much defines us.

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Chinese heritage maintenance: a collective case study on chineseness and heritage language in contemporary British Columbia (2020)

Ethnic-Chinese immigrants, or immigrants of Chinese ancestry, have comprised the largest inbound group to British Columbia (BC) since 1980. It is imperative for them and their multicultural host society to grasp how these populations negotiate their heritage maintenance. This inquiry explores parent perceptions on heritage maintenance for their ethnic-Chinese children in BC, which consists of the maintenance of heritage language (HL) and the negotiation of cultural identity. Conceptually, my research draws upon Darvin and Norton’s Model of Investment, Bourdieu’s notions of capital, and Coleman’s family capital. This collective case study involves interviewing, individually and in groups, a total of eight family cases (14 parents), each comprising one or two parents who have an ethnic-Chinese child enrolled at one BC public school which offers a Mandarin Bilingual Program. The researcher and the participants co-construct meaning through dialogue. In order to encourage a holistic exploration, participants were recruited with diverse migratory trajectories, heritage languages, and immigrant generations/landing ages. Participants expressed a wide range of perceptions on heritage language and cultural identity. Some identified both with Canadian society and the heritage country, some identified primarily with one, and some felt a loss of identification with either. Findings suggest that these varying perceptions may be influenced by migratory trajectory and immigrant generation. In terms of HL, most participants expressed that they enrolled in the MBP for pragmatic reasons, i.e. career prospects, family communication, and psychological protection, rather than to foster cultural identity. Most parents valued bilingualism in the HL and see Chinese HL as one or more forms of capital; however, opinions on the growing global value of Chinese vary. Furthermore, the linguistic expectations and assumptions experienced by ethnic Chinese, perpetrated by both dominant Anglocentric culture and Chinese communities, are illuminated. In conclusion, the discussions and implications include the unanticipated benefits of low dominant language ability, issues of embodied racialized identity, the normalization of marginalization, class issues triggered by economic divides, the differing parental bearings of mothers versus fathers on their children’s education, heritage language as a conceptual link between identity and heritage maintenance, the silver lining of HL loss, and possibilities for heritage renaissance.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Understanding communities of support for resettled refugee children and their families: a strengths-based study of partnership in Metro Vancouver (2019)

Public schools fill a unique space in the settlement landscape, often serving as a first point of community-based contact for newcomers to Canada. Inspired by characteristics of appreciative inquiry as methodology, this qualitative study takes a strengths-based approach to examine the roles—both present and potential—of public schools in supporting refugee resettlement. Using a singular partnership between a service-providing organization (SPO) and a public primary school in Metro Vancouver, I explore the policies and practices where support of both refugee students and their families is encouraged and nurtured at the K–12 school level. School districts across British Columbia and Canada continue to take various innovative approaches to support newcomers, and specifically refugees, in their schools and communities. However, limited research has been done in the Canadian context to assess and collate best practices where refugee students are supported holistically, and in relation to the broader settlement service sector. Research methods include interviews conducted with key administrators at the school and district levels as well as staff in the SPO, nested in the context of relevant municipal and provincial policy documents. I suggest essential characteristics of program design and practice that promote integration of refugee students and families in the community, as well as considerations for future research to grow our understanding of the critical role of public schools in refugee resettlement and support in Canada.

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"Top" Overseas Talent as a Distinguished Social Group: A Policy Study Using Critical Discourse Analysis (2016)

To reverse “brain drain”, the Chinese governments have deployed various mechanisms, including preferential policies, to recruit ethnic Chinese individuals from abroad who are considered top talent urgently needed in China. This study looks at how Chinese overseas recruitment policies contribute to the construction of overseas talent as a distinguished social group, thereby entrenching stratification in the Chinese society. Theoretically, the thesis is informed by Bourdieu’s theory of social class and by Levinson et al.’s perspectives on policy function. The main focus is the Thousand Talent Plan (TTP), which is the China’s most influential policy for recruiting top-notch talent from abroad. My study starts with a historical overview of talent policies in China, giving special attention to the social and economic context of the changes. Critical discourse analysis is then employed as a methodological approach to examine how such policies ideologically differentiate the “best from the rest.” I argue that Chinese overseas recruitment policies have the formative power to construct and impose a legitimate vision of “top” overseas talent as a distinguished social group: a minority privileged with cultural capital, advantageous economic capital, privileged social capital, and honourable symbolic capital. Study limitations and implications for policy and practice are discussed.

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