CGHE Seminar

CGHE series on international and global higher education – seminar 3: International mobility and comparative education

  • Thursday, 28 Nov 2019 12:00 - 14:00
  • LG04, 26 Bedford Way, UCL Institute of Education
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What is the international or global space in higher education and how do we understand it? Scholar-researchers apply a range of disciplinary lenses and methods. Geography plays a key role in many but not all studies of student mobility or global science. Others analyse these dynamics through an economic or policy studies or linguistic frame. Some are hunting for an elusive universal perspective, others are very mindful of national or cultural differences. Some are especially attentive to the challenges facing education in emerging countries. Some look for signs of their own country everywhere they look, others are fascinated by what they see as foreign exotica, others are post-colonial. Many who research ‘internationalisation’ as student mobility and other cross-border connections, or work on ‘global competences’, don’t necessarily research comparative education in a rigorous manner, or take account of the literature on development education. The interesting and productive differences between an ‘international’, ‘comparative’ and a ‘global’ perspective are rarely discussed.

These differences shape the contents and impacts of higher education research and scholarship. The contrary knowledge produced in this field shapes our global imagining in fragmented ways – is the diversity always fruitful? Should we work to develop a common view? This series will explore six different approaches to imagining and investigating international higher education, highlighting similarities and differences between them, and drawing the participant audience into active discussion.

The CGHE Seminar series on international and global higher education continues with seminar three from Rachel Brooks and Ariane de Gayardon on international mobility and comparative education. The event will be chaired by Paul Morris.

Book your place at seminar 3 here.

Details of other seminars in the series here.

Constructing the ‘international’ space in studies of international student mobility
Rachel Brooks

While many studies of the cross-border mobility of students for higher education have, ostensibly, been international in focus, they have often tended to focus on particular parts of the world. Likely informed by researchers’ own geographical locations, such studies have typically foregrounded East to West mobility – contending that the majority of this movement has been driven by the emergence of a new middle class in Asia and the corporatisation of universities in the Global North. Similarly, within much extant research, mobile students are often positioned as transnational actors, familiar with international travel and comfortable operating across different cultural contexts. This paper draws out some of the implications of this way of understanding international student mobility, noting the relative neglect of engagement with relevant bodies of work on comparative education and within development studies. It also, however, argues that a more nuanced view of mobile students is emerging, which pays attention to diversification in both the geography of cross-border movement and the social characteristics of the individuals involved.

The state of comparative higher education
Ariane de Gayardon

This presentation will give an update of the state of comparative higher education today. It will discuss the importance of the field in a world that continues to globalize and where international competition has become prevalent – driving national and institutional strategies. At the same time, it will reveal the paradox of comparing systems whose missions and designs are culturally, historically and socially embedded, addressing the still unresolved contradiction between global and local in the 70-year old comparative higher education research field. Finally, this presentation will question whether comparative higher education really is a research field of its own standing.


All seminars are free and open to the public. No advance booking required.


You can register to watch the livestream of this seminar.

Rachel Brooks

Rachel Brooks

Rachel Brooks is Professor of Higher Education at University College London and an executive editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education. Her recent books include Education and Society (2018) and Materialities and Mobilities in Education (2017, with Johanna Waters). She is currently leading a European Research Council-funded project on constructions of higher education students across Europe.

Ariane de Gayardon

Ariane de Gayardon

Ariane de Gayardon is a Research Associate on CGHE’s social and economic impact of higher education research programme.

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