UK policy on international students has remained remarkably stable over the last 15 years. Changes in political administrations have been underpinned by consensus on neoliberal principles of marketisation and the need to gain national competitive advantage.
Policy has therefore focused on rationales for recruitment, justifying engagement in international education with reference to the political, economic and educational benefits which accrue to the UK as a result of the presence of international students.
More recently, debates on migration have generated a counter-rationale in policy, mitigating against the recruitment of international students.
These rationales develop representations of international students as consumers, vectors of income, ambassadors, numbers, teaching assistants, embodiments of intercultural education, and as a homogenous category with limited agency.
Such representations have the potential to generate disciplinary expectations of international students within and beyond the classroom, thus affecting pedagogical relationships. They do not afford international students a political voice or acknowledge their agency. Therefore, these policy rationales have ethical implications for educators, international admissions teams and policymakers.
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