Towards an integrative understanding of contemporary educational mobilities: a critical agenda for international student mobilities research

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The study of international student mobilities (ISM) has increased substantially over the last two decades. Following trends in institutional and policy debates on the broader internationalisation of education, researchers have paid considerable attention to questions about why, where, how and under what circumstances people engage in educational migration. As the field of ISM has matured, however, it has also taken shape around distinct frameworks wherein little cross-fertilisation appears to be occurring and where a series of normative narratives have emerged. In this paper we evaluate the extant scholarship on ISM and argue that there are significant blind spots in current research and that there is a need for a greater focus on interdisciplinary conversations that can address the changing characteristics of educational migration internationally. In particular, we argue that researchers have remained preoccupied on researching international students at particular points in time, have over emphasised the centrality of privilege and youth and been too focused on Westward mobility. In concluding, we set an agenda for future research on ISM that addresses three key challenges: analysing the connection between imagination and action; the relationship between life course, privilege and precarity; and accounting for the recent diversification and stratification of ISM.