The International Student: Exploring the Invisible Subject of Global Mobility

  • Peter Kell
  • Gillian Vogl
Part of the Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects book series (EDAP, volume 17)


This chapter explores the literature and research relating to international students and transnational education and argues that there is an orientation towards macrolevel studies, country studies and market analysis in the research on studying overseas. The literature, according to the authors, is generally biased towards instrumental and positivist research that constructs a systematic ‘market’. This chapter argues that the literature depersonalises students and that there is invisibility associated with the actual lived experience of international students. The authors argue that is an absence of research and literature that captures the human dimensions of mobility, cultural interaction and the complexities of being an international student. Most of the current literature that describes the experience of international students is also critiqued because it is assigning students a passive and dependent role and that much of the research does not question the inequalities and risks for students that that characterise market outcomes. As an alternative, the authors utilise a theoretical framework derived from Ulrike Beck’s notion of the risk society to describe the impact of late capitalism on the lives of people, including international students. Beck (1999) argues that the impact of markets has fragmented and isolated people and this has both created heightened risk in everyday life for all people including international students. In describing these trends, Beck (1999) and Beck-Gernsheim (2001) have also devised a notion of ‘a life of one’s own’ that identifies and categorises a process of individualisation emerging from the commodification of everyday life. Beck argues that global capitalism initiates the conditions for competition that fragments and individualises previously socially cohesive social practices. The benefit of Beck’s theoretical approach is the ability to explore the nature of friendship, affiliation and commonality and the impact that modern capitalism has on relationships between people. These notions of the risk society and individualisation are used as alternative theoretical tools to develop ways of exploring the discursive and contradictory nature of the lives of international students and are utilised as an interpretative tool to analyse global student mobility in this book.


International Student Global Movement Character Friendship Global Capitalism Risk Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Altbach, P. (2004). Globalisation and the university: Myths and realities in an unequal world. Tertiary Management, 1, 1–20.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, U. (1998). Politics of risk society. In J. Franklin (Ed.), The politics of risk society (pp. 1–9). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, U. (2006). Living in the world risk society. Economy and Society, 35(3), 329–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, U., & Beck-Gernsham, E. (2001). Individualization. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  5. Franklin, J. (Ed.). (1998). The politics of risk society. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  6. Gerth, H. H., & Mills, W. C. (1946). From Max Weber: Essays in sociology. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Habermas, J. (1990). The Theory of Communicative action: The lifeworld and the system: The critique of functionalist reason (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Marginson, S., & Sawir, E. (2005). Interrogating international flows in higher education. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 3(3), 281–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2006). Education at a glance. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  10. Pahl, R. (1998). Friendship the glue of contemporary society? In J. Franklin (Ed.), The politics of risk society (pp. 99–120). Polity Press: Cambridge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kell
    • 1
  • Gillian Vogl
    • 2
  1. 1.School of EducationCharles Darwin UniversityCasuarinaAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Social InclusionMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations