Globalization and international student mobility: a network analysis

Robin Shields

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This article analyzes changes to the network of international student mobility in higher education over a 10-year period (1999–2008). International student flows have increased rapidly, exceeding 3 million in 2009, and extensive data on mobility provide unique insight into global educational processes. The analysis is informed by three theoretical conceptualizations of globalization: neoliberalism, critical perspectives (e.g., world-systems analysis and poststructuralism), and world culture theory. Network analysis demonstrates that flows of international students have become more unequal and centralized. Comparisons with other global networks show that international student flows are closely related to world trade and, increasingly, international governmental organizations. While confirming the importance of international governmental organizations in the globalization of education, the study highlights the need for theoretical work that accounts for the nexus between international institutions and the complex power dynamics involved in uneven global processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-636
Number of pages28
JournalComparative Education Review
Issue number4
Early online date2 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • globalization
  • education
  • higher education
  • mobility


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