Higher Education

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 173–188 | Cite as

Understanding the programmatic and contextual forces that influence participation in a government-sponsored international student-mobility program

  • Laura W. PernaEmail author
  • Kata Orosz
  • Zakir Jumakulov
  • Marina Kishkentayeva
  • Adil Ashirbekov


Although prior research establishes the forces that “push” and “pull” students to participate in foreign study, the transferability of findings from earlier studies is limited by the absence of theoretical grounding. In addition, relatively little is known about how a government-sponsored student mobility program promotes foreign study in a nation with a transitioning economy. Using case study methods, this study explores the characteristics of students who participate in such a program and identifies the programmatic characteristics and contextual forces that promote and limit participation. The findings shed light on the appropriate theoretical perspectives for understanding student participation in a government-sponsored mobility program and illustrate the need to consider how aspects of the national cultural, economic, and political context influence participation. The findings also raise several questions about how an international student mobility program should be structured to encourage participation and maximize benefits to individuals and society within a particular national context.


International student mobility Human capital Public policy National context 



This paper is a product of a larger research project entitled, “Internationalization as a strategic factor in the development of education and science in the Republic of Kazakhstan in the environment of socio-economic globalization,” and is a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania and Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education. Bryan Gopaul was also a member of the research team for the larger project. The research is sponsored by Nazarbayev University with funds from the Republic of Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the funder. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education in St. Louis, Missouri, November 2013.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura W. Perna
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kata Orosz
    • 1
  • Zakir Jumakulov
    • 2
  • Marina Kishkentayeva
    • 2
  • Adil Ashirbekov
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of EducationPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Nazarbayev University Graduate School of EducationAstanaKazakhstan

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