Branding International education industry in Australia: #InThisTogether

Until the pandemic, international education was seen as a ‘colossal success story’, which delivered a slew of direct economic benefits to a range of actors that included universities and the many intermediaries constitutive of the education services industry. Nation-wide, international education’s export earnings were estimated to fall between A$23 billion and A$40 billion with value encompassing retail, real estate, travel and tourism markets.  In a context of economic uncertainty and rising nationalism, the international education industry has responded to the pandemic-induced disruptions to student flows through a range of measures. In this paper, I focus on InThisTogether, a (social) media campaign that is intended to (re)present Australia as a safe and caring study destination.  Featuring ‘user-generated content’, this industry-driven campaign generates positive stories publicizing the care afforded to international students by local communities and education institutions. Self-care, self-regulation and individual resilience in the face of social isolation and financial difficulties are also highlighted, along with an imminent return to normality. #InthisTogether discursively and affectively constructs a ‘community of fate’ while rendering invisible the systemic, policy-initiated vulnerabilities of international education markets. I conclude with a discussion of the productive theoretical, empirical and ethical possibilities of ‘communities of fate’ on research into international student mobilities.

Ravinder Sidhu is based at the School of Education, University of Queensland. Her research interests are in the sociology of international education under contemporary conditions of globalisation. She is the author of Universities and Globalisation: To market, to market (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates) and Student Mobilities and International Education in Asia: Emotional Geographies of Knowledge Spaces (Palgrave MacMillan) co-authored with Ho Kong Chong and Brenda Yeoh.