Project 1.2

Internationalisation of HE as a public good: a comparative study in four national systems

The aim of this project was to examine inward student mobility and how it related to the production of national and global public goods in four countries: France, the UK, Japan and China.

About this project

There is a potential for tension between the free mobility of students, which is a global public good, and national public goods – such as managed migration (targeted to persons identified as economically useful and/or limited in volume), and national security.

In order to optimise the benefits of internationalisation as a public good (whether a global and/or national good), it is necessary to understand it in context. This project analysed four countries which offer sharply contrasting examples: the UK, France, Japan and China. Among the four countries there were striking differences in both political cultures that affect higher and international education, and in the regulation of migration.

The project enabled a better understanding of synergies and tensions between:

  • national migration policy and international higher education, especially cross-border student mobility;
  • economic growth and global competitiveness as national public goods, and educational internationalisation as a national public good;
  • national social equity, global social equity, and the internationalisation of higher education, especially cross-border student mobility;
  • national public goods in education and other areas, and global public goods that are, or can be, furthered by international student mobility and/or other forms of internationalisation in higher education.

The project also examined how policy relating to student mobility connects to:

  • ‘soft power’;
  • recruitment of global talent and the building of world-class universities and research capacity;
  • revenue generation through education exports;
  • intercultural learning and the building of national facilities in global English;
  • educational ‘modernisation’ and improvement.

The project will generate new understandings of global and national public goods, and new insight into the dynamics of global relations in higher education, including the limits and potentials of the nation-state and the potentials of both national political regulation and democratic forms in the global setting.

Project methods

The four national case studies included:

  • Investigation of internationalisation policies, programmes and perspectives, and synergies and tensions with other national and global public goods, in two contrasting universities in each country.
  • Interviews in universities included vice-chancellors/rectors/presidents, executive leaders responsible for internationalisation and related matters, administrators handling international students, research professors in the same two disciplines in each university (TBA), international students.
  • Investigations in those parts of government responsible for aspects of internationalisation of higher education (especially international student policy and regulation), and related public good areas – including migration and population policy, national security, economic development, research and innovation, trade and export.
  • Approximately 30 semi-structured interviews per country, including about 10 in each university, and 10 in government and national organisations focused on higher education.
  • Collection of appropriate documents related to government policy and regulation, and HEI policy and regulation in relation to internationalisation.

The project ran from January 2017 until September 2019.

  • 2017: Interviews in Japan and China.
  • 2018: Interviews in the UK and France.
  • 2019: Final project seminar.


Professor Simon Marginson
University of Oxford
Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, founding Director of the ESRC/RE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Joint Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education, and a Professorial Associate with the University of Melbourne. Simon’s research is focused primarily on global and international higher education, the global science system, higher education in East Asia, the contributions of higher education, and higher education and social inequality. Simon led CGHE’s project 8 which investigated the public good role of higher education in ten countries. The project found that while a broad notion of public good has been largely emptied out of policy in the English-speaking countries, where economic definitions of individualised pecuniary value are dominant, recognition of the broader individual and collective outcomes of higher education continues in different ways in other jurisdictions including France, Finland, South Korea and China. The study in England discovered however that despite the narrow economic framing used by Westminster policy makers, both higher education practitioners and policy professionals believe that higher education makes a large and multiple contribution to both national and global public goods.
IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society
Vincent Carpentier is a Reader in History of Education at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. He was responsible for CGHE Project 7, ‘A historical lens on higher education staffing: UK and France’. Key outcomes from this project included papers such as Three Stories of Institutional Differentiation: Resource, Mission and Social Inequalities in Higher Education (Policy Reviews in Higher Education 2021) and Academic Workforce in France and the UK in Historical Perspectives (Comparative Education 2023- with Emmanuelle Picard), recently reported in the Conversation (2023) . He was also a Co-Investigator on Project 8, ‘Local and global public good of higher education: 10 nation study’ examining the French context presented in the paper Public Good in French Universities: Principles and practices of the “Republican” Model of Higher education (Compare 2022- with Aline Courtois).
Professor Futao Huang
Hiroshima University (Japan)
Futao Huang is a Co-Investigator on CGHE Project 8, ‘Local and global public good of higher education: 10 nation study’.
Professor Nian Cai Liu
Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
Nian Cai Liu is a Co-Investigator on CGHE Project 8, ‘Local and global public good of higher education: 10 nation study’.
Kiyomi Horiuchi
Hiroshima University
Kiyomi Horiuchi is a Research Associate on CGHE Project 8, ‘Local and global public good of higher education: 10 nation study’.
Rikkyo University

Thomas Brotherhood is an Assistant Professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and completed a CGHE DPhil in 2020.


CGHE working papers

Additional publications