ECNU Review of Education 1(2) pp 44-73
—The oversupply of college graduates and increasing competition in the Chinese urban labor market have forced college students to undertake internships much earlier and to a greater intensity in the hope of boosting their employment prospects. It may be argued that the considerable time and energy thus spent on internships is deleterious to their university studies. The paper considers the factors that determine the intensity of an internship experience.
—Building on a Cobb-Douglas utility function, the paper constructs a Prisoners’ Dilemma game to model the internship behavior of Chinese college students, and then examines the determinants of internship using data from a 2011 survey of approximately 10,000 Chinese college students from 47 higher education institutions in the Beijing metropolitan area and multivariate regression analysis.
—Empirical results confirm three key hypotheses derived from our model: first, students’ perceptions of higher differentials across available jobs in the labor market entice them to intern excessively; second, the improving quality of college teaching and the consequent benefit for knowledge acquisition mitigates the need for excessive internship; third, student preferences for fundamental knowledge acquisition also tilts the balance towards more study and less internship.
—These findings suggest that in the context of a tight graduate labor market, improving the quality of college teaching provides a viable alternative to excessive internship by students.