Covid-19 and the Race for International Students: Mobilities and Migrations in a Post-Pandemic World

This paper offers reflections on the importance of international student mobilities and the migration industries that have emerged as a result, whilst also considering how the global pandemic may change these narratives. Given the rampant neoliberalisation of the higher education system in the UK, for many universities, a healthy international student recruitment is essential for their survival. This is evidenced by the myriad of efforts (requiring significant financial outlays) that universities go to in order to keep their numbers buoyant and which this paper introduces. Yet, many of these have relied on mobilities to enable marketing and engagement opportunities, and at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic there were concerns that the course of the pandemic in the UK and the immobilities it created would have untold impacts upon this. The paper will consider the actions taken by some universities to mitigate against this, as well as questioning how the pandemic impacts upon the sustainability of the higher education system both in the UK and beyond.

Dr Suzanne Beech is Lecturer in Human Geography at Ulster University. A specialist in international higher education her work has analysed all aspects of the international student experience from recruitment, and the associated migration industries they encounter, right through to their reflections on study overseas. Suzanne’s work has been published widely in journals such as Social and Cultural GeographyGeoforumThe Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and Area. Her monograph, The Geographies of International Student Mobility: Spaces, Places and Decision making, was published with Palgrave MacMillan in 2019.