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Durham e-Theses
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Non-EU International Students in UK Higher Education Institutions: Prosperity, Stagnation and Institutional Hierarchies

MATEOS-GONZALEZ, JOSE,LUIS (2019) Non-EU International Students in UK Higher Education Institutions: Prosperity, Stagnation and Institutional Hierarchies. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis investigates the relationship between the distribution of non-European Union (EU)
international students across the UK higher education sector and the characteristics of UK higher
education institutions (HEIs) and the strategies they may pursue to make their provision more
attractive to non-European Union (EU) international students. It looks at how this relationship
has evolved since 1995/96, analysing the recruitment patterns of individual HEIs in relation to
policy changes that may impact the number of students coming to UK higher education from
outside the EU. To do so, I analyse an exceptionally large dataset, produced by UK’s Higher
Education Statistics Agency (HESA), containing information on over 35 million higher education
students covering a 22-year period. This study represents the first systematic longitudinal analysis
of recruitment patterns of non-EU international students in UK HEIs for the past two decades.
My analysis shows that UK institutional hierarchies play a pivotal in explaining the uneven
distribution of non-EU internationals students across HEIs, particularly in policy environments
that seek to restrict mobility. Understanding this unevenness is critical considering the terms in
which non-EU international students are recruited in UK higher education. This subset of students
represents a substantial resource –both financial and symbolic– in the sector, as they tend to pay
higher fees than their domestic counterparts and are perceived as a marker of institutional prestige,
as attested in some global league tables. Thus, the observed inequalities between institutions in
terms of their shares of students who are non-EU international –with more prestigious HEIs
overwhelmingly having higher shares– contribute to longstanding resource and prestige disparities
in UK higher education.
Moreover, this thesis investigates whether the position of universities within UK institutional
hierarchies allows us to understand the strategies HEIs pursue to make their provision more
attractive to non-EU international students. Drawing from the Bourdieusian concept of ‘field of
power’ (1993) and its development by Marginson (2008), I argue that the position of a given
university in a hierarchy will shape their ‘space of possibles’ (Bourdieu 1993: 30; Marginson 2008:
307), that is the strategies that they may follow to successfully recruit non-EU international
students. Previous research suggests that universities that recruit non-EU international students as
a result of marketising their educational offering to a global audience, pitch their products to
particularly lucrative markets, which results in certain institutions having particularly high
concentrations of certain nationalities in certain subjects (Findlay et al. 2017). However, as I show
in this thesis, the extent to which HEIs engage in these practices vary depending on their position
in UK’s institutional hierarchy.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:international students, higher education, institutional hierarchies, marketization, UK higher education
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Nov 2019 12:19

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