Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Whitney McIntyre Miller

Second Advisor

Kelly Kennedy

Third Advisor

John Brady


With globalization being a focus of the 21st century, the primary approach for responding to global challenges for higher education institutions is to adopt an internationalization strategy and accelerate the internationalization pace. To cultivate “global-ready” graduates, developing students’ intercultural competence (IC) has become one of the core missions of international and Chinese higher education institutions. Given the scarcity of quantitative studies on Chinese private college students’ IC and inconsistent findings on the relationships between foreign language capability, international experience, and IC in the extant literature, a quantitative study was conducted in a Chinese private college to explore 1,983 undergraduate students’ IC characteristics, examine IC differences across different groups, and investigate the relationships between their English language capability, international experiences, intercultural contact experiences, and IC. Findings revealed students’ IC levels were slightly above average, scoring highest on the Attitude subscale and lowest on the Knowledge of Others subscale. All groups’ differences were statistically significant with a small strength of difference in the College English Test Band 4 (CET-4) and overseas duration groups, and medium strength of difference in the frequencies of intercultural contact groups. All factors examined in the study (i.e., CET-4 score, overseas duration, frequency of communicating with native English speakers, frequency of engaging in intercultural activities, and frequency of contacting cultural products and taking cultural courses) were positively related to IC, but the magnitudes of the association were small.

This study suggests directions for improving students’ IC through foreign language education, provides pathways for increasing intercultural contact domestically and internationally, encourages students to participate in cross-border activities, and recommends combining these methods to have a more effective impact on students’ IC.

This research has some limitations in the generalizability of the results, one-time survey, self-report data, the time gap between variables, and incomplete coverage of variables. In future research, a longitudinal mixed-method design with samples from diverse cultures in different public or private colleges is recommended to have a more comprehensive study on Chinese college students’ IC.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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