Understanding factors influencing international students’ decision to engage in international education is essential for education providers to better cater for students’ educational expectations and enhance their attractiveness to international students. Whilst there has been extensive research on the reasons why international students undertake cross-border higher education, international students’ motivations for enrolling in vocational education and associate degree programmes are still under-researched. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 30 international students from china, this research found that pathway to higher education appears to be the most important factor motivating international students to undertake vocational education and associate degree programmes. In addition, prospect of immigration, english language proficiency, previous academic performance, agent’s recommendations and relatives’ and friends’ advice are amongst the important factors that students take into account in their decision to choose vocational education and associate degree programmes. This research also examines why chinese international students have chosen vocational education programmes in a dual-sector university over vocational education colleges. It found that the flexibility to articulate to higher education, international reputation of the programme, practical training and favourable location are key issues that these students draw on when making their decision to study in a dual-sector university. 2015, 2014 National institute of education, singapore.