Student Mobility in Asia

This interdisciplinary study on transnational student mobility in higher education within Asia is financed by the Swedish Research Council and focuses on young people’s strategies, conditions and educational goals. The full title of the project is "Transnational Student Mobility in Higher Education within Asia: An interdisciplinary study of educational conditions among young persons". The project is a joint study in which six researchers from Lund and Gothenburg University participate with six different sub-studies that analyze student mobility in different parts of Asia (see below for participating scholars). The project centers on common research questions and a theoretical framework for the study of higher education. By adopting a transnational perspective we hope to draw attention to trans-boundary mobility in which individuals, through daily activities and social, religious, economic, and political relations, create social fields that transcend national borders.
The aim of the project is to contribute to a theoretical development of this field of research, and the theoretical and methodological framework of the study thus takes its point of departure in the gap in knowledge that exist within research on international student mobility. Earlier research has often focused on nations, and on comparisons between nations, but does not highlight the transnational perspective. Existing theories are often based on a western context and hence the understanding from within, which this project is aiming for, is often missing. A number of studies deal with statistical material on student mobility; however, few earlier studies have focused on the students, their strategies and experiences, andthis is the focus of this study.
The overarching research questions of the sub-studies focus on what transnational fields and values govern students’ choices and strategies, how students perceive country of origin and country of  study, the meaning of sex/gender, ethnicity, and how students are affected by mobilitywithin their own social, political and religious contexts. The concept of transnational social fields has often been used within migration theory and studies of diasporas. However, migration researchers, using the concept transnational social fields, have usually not included student migration. The transnational social fields, in which students moving between different regions in Asia operate, comprise diverse and overlapping identities: the ones originating from the home country, the new ones that are shaped at the place of study, and finally those focusing on the future.
This study is based on an individual perspective with a focus on life history and interviewing as a method. Life history has been chosen in order to illustrate processes of social change. We would like to highlight individuals’ experiences in a long term perspective and from their different positions in society. This method allows for individuals to make their voice heard, something that has not been part of mainstream research on transnational mobility of higher education. Narrative methods have a long tradition. To narrate is to create meaning and to talk about ones’ own life is a reflective and creative process in which the creation of meaning is the unifying factor. The data collection for each sub-study will be conducted in Syria, Turkey, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The project participants represent disciplines such as Sociology, Social Anthropology, History and Islamology which give the study a wide disciplinary scope. All researchers have not only substantial experience in collecting data through field interviews but also extensive knowledge from their respective geographical areas in Asia.
The project will be empirically, theoretically and methodologically significant for this research field. As student mobility in Asia is expected to increase markedly within the coming decades, such  knowledge will be in demand. The project also creates an opportunity for critical reflection on perceptions of knowledge and learning in a transnational perspective, something most useful in meetings with transnational students but also courses on international cooperation. The number of foreign students at Swedish academic institutions has tripled since 1999 and today constitutes 8 percent of the student population in Sweden. The interest in studying in Sweden has increased particularly among non-European students. This project can create increased understanding for aspects of diversity as well as different educational conditions. Given that the project is focusing on transnationalmobility of higher education from the perspective of the individual, it is expected to increase the knowledge of identity formation and education and of different strategies and visions for the future in relation also to a larger social, cultural, and political societal context. The project can also contribute to the internationalization of educational science research and, further, be useful for the internationalization of teacher-training.

Participating scholars:

Marie Carlson, Gothenburg University (Turkey)
Bengt Jacobsson, Gothenburg University (Singapore)
Ann Kull, Lund University (Indonesia)
Anna Lindberg, Lund University (India)
Monica Lindberg Falk, Lund University (Thailand)
Leif Stenberg, Lund University (Syria)