Diaspora and Internationalisation

This is the notes from the Diaspora and Internationalisation symposium held at UCL and sponsored by BAICE.

Diaspora, State and University: Annette Bamberger (UCL)

Diaspora: the original meaning was the tragic expulsion from a homeland

Diaspora: changing meaning from a deficit model to one that is an advantage and it is about connectivity to culture. It is now incorporating mobilities that is by choice rather than by expulsion.

Some key literature in understanding diaspora:

Brubaker, R. (2005). The ‘diaspora’ diaspora. Ethnic and racial studies, 28(1), 1-19.

Alexander, C. (2017). Beyond the “The ‘diaspora’ diaspora”: a response to Rogers Brubaker. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(9), 1544-1555.

Brubaker, R. (2017). Revisiting “The ‘diaspora’ diaspora”. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(9), 1556-1561.

Different fields look at Diaspora in different ways for example in Geography it’s about a social movement.

There are a number of key issues in diaspora scholarship including the hybridity or third spaces; how it is defined and by whom (particularly with regard to the “home country”).

Did a systematic review on diaspora and have narrowed it down to 77 articles? There are four types:

  • Policies and Programmes: it’s about knowledge diaspora and an essentialist approach. It tends to be an evaluation of a State’s policy. People abroad are seen as sources of (national) innovation
  • Scholars: Focused on identities – looks at the marginalisation and alienation
  • Students: Focus on identities and access – connected to ideas of high agency and part of heritage tourism
  • Curriculum/Pedagogy: pluralising knowledge/ fields – it was not about internationalising the field but rather making it less Euro/American centric (decolonising the curriculum?)

Her research looks into international student mobility because of diasporisation. She concentrates on how Israel had Jewish student exchange visits in order to connect to the Jewish students across the world.

Constructing and policing Chinese Diaspora: Christine Han and Tong Yaobin

Interesting presentation of how the Chinese diaspora is seen – a perspective from a Singaporean Chinese and a Chinese citizen. China distinguishes between Chinese citizens who are living outside China (overseas Chinese) and those persons of Chinese descent (the diaspora – ie outside the jurisdiction of the Chinese government and there is a building of ethnoculturalism). The Chinese government wants to connect with the diaspora in order for them to come to Chinese, to achieve the Chinese dream.

Exploiting immobility or providing opportunity?: Lee Rensimer

Focuses on the transnational higher education (TNHE) and its international branch campuses (IBC). The focus is on the mobility of the institution and the immobility of the student (which one can argue it’s about capitalising on students’ vulnerability).

Can the transnational higher education be able to produce mobility capital? Can it be the same as those students who are mobile?

Distinguishes between three levels of mobility of the diaspora: high, medium and low. Those persons who were part of the diaspora that had low mobility either had to return to their home country or study in an IBC. High mobility is dependent on wealth as well as passport type.

The students seem to think that the UK IBC degree would open up more mobility opportunities for them than other countries’ branch campuses.

Freedom of Movement and Displacement: Brad Blitz

In the era of the Coronavirus and Brexit, there has become more border controls – and hence a lack of freedom of movement.

Universities is in a civic state, it is not an autonomous body as it needs to fit with the regulations of the state.

Interesting terminology for migrant academics: foreign-born lecturers. There is definitely a problem with terminology. Uses also the term “foreign-born nationals” – are these citizens who are born elsewhere?

The most qualified seem to have the most mobility opportunities.

The lack of freedom of movement may mean that students may take up online learning more and using of MOOCs.

International students and diaspora formation (Rachel Brooks and Johanna Waters)

International students are under-theorised as part of the knowledge diaspora. There is a shift to “mind circulation” – which reflects the transnational nature of mobile students. Migration studies tend to see students as less important and are not included in a migrant category.

My thoughts: the idea of bonded scholarships seems to be a colonization approach that reflects the bond of indentureship.

The strength of national identity affects the motivations or the likely return of students. There may be other motivations including political or economic for return. There are questions on whether there is a temporal variation – that is how recallable is a diaspora as time goes by.

In some countries like China, the returning diaspora are given access to the best jobs etc.


Met some interesting PhD students from Oxford (one called Soyoung Lee) who are looking at the concept of self-formation amongst international students. Soyoung is looking at it in the context of learning and teaching and their student identity. More information on self-formation:

Simon Marginson has a lecture on this: Higher Education as Self-Formation https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/events/2017/nov/higher-education-self-formation