Cash, competition, or charity: international students and the global imaginary

Abstract

As the number of students traveling from the Global South to study in the Global North continues to grow (OECD in Education at a glance 2014: highlights. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2014_eag_highlights-2014-en, 2014), we argue that it is necessary to broaden our conceptual approaches to the study of this dynamic. This article utilizes the framework of “global imaginaries” to examine the links between intensifying international student recruitment and international students’ experiences with racism. We suggest that both recruitment and racism are framed by a dominant global imaginary rooted in Western supremacy. This imaginary both makes Western higher education a desirable product in the global higher education market and shapes the reception of international students.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    “The West” does not describe an ontologically fixed location; rather, it captures a historically constituted, epistemological distinction, generally made in contrast to various iterations of the “non-West” (see footnote 2, below, for more details). Nonetheless, over time, “the West” has taken on particular geographic meaning. In this article, we generally include within the category of “Western countries”: Western European countries; the USA; Canada; New Zealand; and Australia.

  2. 2.

    Throughout the text, we refer somewhat interchangeably to the Global North/South and to the West as against its Others/the non-West. While recognizing that: (1) these terms have different genealogies of meaning that are not reducible to each other; and (2) usage of these colonial, binary divides in our effort to critique them may paradoxically reify their meaning, and obscure the heterogeneity within the groups that these terms are problematically meant to describe, we nonetheless make use of them in order to indicate and emphasize enduring social, political, economic, and onto-epistemological divides, particularly as they were/are constructed through the dominant global imaginary we interrogate (see e.g. McGregor and Hill 2009 regarding the Global North/South divide).

  3. 3.

    For a useful general overview of trends and transformations in Canada’s international education policy and practice since the post-World War II era, see Trilokekar (2010).

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the Academy of Finland for the support provided for the completion of this article through the project “Ethical Internationalism in Higher Education in Times of Global Crises.” We would also like to thank the editors and two anonymous reviewers for their feedback on an earlier version of this paper.

Funding

The authors have received funding from the Finnish Research Academy through the “Ethical Internationalism in Higher Education in Times of Global Crises” research project.

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Correspondence to Sharon Stein.

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Stein, S., de Andreotti, V.O. Cash, competition, or charity: international students and the global imaginary. High Educ 72, 225–239 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-015-9949-8

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Keywords

  • International students
  • Internationalization
  • Racism
  • Colonialism