This paper exposes the tensions between different agendas and calls for what is loosely called ‘global citizenship education’ by developing a set of sociological conceptual tools useful for engaging with associated educational forms and ideals. It presents the instrumentalist and normative agendas at play within global citizenship education policy, theory and practice. Recent theoretical critiques of more mainstream global citizenship education are considered, encapsulated in calls for a form of ‘cosmopolitan learning’. This learning is associated with the development of epistemic virtues and calls for an epistemological shift in the way knowledge, learning and identities are seen. It is argued that there is much to be gained from this recent body of academic work, but that it must also be accompanied by empirically informed understandings of current school contexts and the hegemonic notions of corporate cosmopolitan capital at play. The position is taken that no matter how global citizenship education is theorised, key theoretical, conceptual and practical questions need to be asked that expose the normative, universalist and instrumentalist agendas at play.