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International Education is Political! Exploring the Politics of International Student Mobilities

Johanna L. Waters

This article argues that, to date, debates (both public and academic) around international students and the internationalization of higher education have been overly concerned with economic issues and insufficiently attentive to the political ramifications of associated changes in educational practices. It takes seriously a call made by Madge et al. (2009), in which they assert that notions of “engaged pedagogy” and “responsibility” need to be explored in relation to international student experiences. Debates have thus far neglected the wider “politics” (with a small “p”) that underpin the relationship between international students and their “host” university. An awareness of these political relationships has the potential to encourage progressive practices within the institution of the university, including the campus. The article examines the case of transnational education programs in Hong Kong, and considers why a political perspective on international student mobilities is important. The wider goal of this article is to inject some much needed “politics” into discussions of international—and domestic—student experiences.    

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