International student mobility: the role of social networks

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    Building upon recent work on higher education mobility, this paper contends that social networks of friendship and kinship are critical determinants for students deciding to study overseas, not just, as has hitherto been suggested, a complementary factor. It uses original data collected through interviews and focus groups with thirty-eight higher education international students studying at three UK universities and argues that students who choose to study overseas do not operate within a vacuum but rather draw upon extended networks of individuals who have chosen to do so themselves or advocate studying abroad. While this encouragement may be of an explicit and unequivocal nature – telling students that they ought to study overseas – for the majority it is rather more implicit. The students interviewed invariably related that higher education overseas or mobility more generally was an accepted practice among their peers, thereby leading to a normalisation of the mobility process. The paper concludes that international students come to accept mobility as a taken for granted stage within the life course, and, whether intentionally or not, this is often the driving force behind their decision to study overseas.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)332-350
    Number of pages19
    JournalSocial & Cultural Geography
    Issue number3
    Early online date27 Nov 2014
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2015


    • international student mobility
    • social networks
    • decision making
    • transnationalism


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