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Call for papers

International Symposium

Democratizing International Student Mobility

February 2-3, 2024, Waseda University, Japan

Deadline for proposal submission: 15 September 2023


Dear colleagues,

The Waseda Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies and The Waseda Institute of Asian Migrations are jointly organizing the international symposium “Democratizing International Student Mobility.” This symposium aims to examine international student mobility in the contemporary era with a specific focus on the issue of inequality and the practices and experiences related to the possibility of democratization of international education.

Since the late 20th century, international student mobility has been expanding rapidly. National governments see international student mobility as a means to cultivate global talent, provide international aid, and promote soft power. Educational institutions promote student mobility to increase the quality of education, revenues, as well as prestige. Individual students participate in cross-border mobility for skills, knowledge, credentials, as well as the opportunity for labor migration and cultural adventures. Currently, the volume of international student mobility is unprecedented and has become a major industry, involving different levels of actors from the state to individuals. However, despite its rapid expansion and commodification, international student mobility remains largely an elite educational practice.

First, the academic and policy discourse about international education and international student mobility focuses primarily on phenomena and practices at the higher education level. Second, government policy toward international student mobility often ties international students to talent programs. Third, cross-border mobility itself is largely a practice among the elites. Most of those who have access to international student mobility at the higher education level are among the economically better-off in society or those from the global north. Even though a minority of international students might come from less socioeconomically endowed backgrounds or countries, they are often academic elites chosen for the opportunity to pursue higher education across borders.

This elitist tendency seems to be at odds with the philosophy of modern education itself. John Dewey in the early 20th century pointed out that education as an important institution in modern society should be grounded in the principles of democracy and aim to cultivate active and informed citizens who can contribute to the betterment of society. Moreover, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDG4) aim to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Granted, international student mobility entails crossing national and cultural borders and can be costly. Are there possibilities for international education to be inclusive, equitable, and rooted in democratic principles?

In this symposium, we ask how students from a wide range of social backgrounds, not just the socioeconomically affluent and academic elites, can be included in cross-border educational mobility. We pay attention to the plurality of international educational practices, including those in and beyond higher education, and those following unconventional trajectories. We invite submissions from researchers in different disciplines, including but not limited to sociology, geography, anthropology, education, and political science. We welcome original empirical studies that engage the following discussions:

  • The question of social (in)equality and sustainability in international student mobility

  • International student mobility into diverse educational institutions, including language academies, vocational schools, and other education and training programs

  • International student mobility into non-English speaking zones and non-conventional destinations

  • The emergent actors and stakeholders of international student mobility

  • International student mobility and individual capability building

  • ICT and the democratization of international education


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words maximum), and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 15 September 2023. Please also include a statement confirming that your paper has not been published or committed elsewhere, and that you are willing to revise your paper for potential inclusion in an edited journal publication (in collaboration with the workshop organizers and other participants) if we proceed with such a project.

Please submit your proposal to Successful applicants will be notified by mid-October. Panel presenters will be required to submit drafts of papers (4,000-6,000 words) by 15 January, 2024. These drafts will be circulated to fellow panelists and discussants in advance. Drafts need not be fully polished. Indeed, we expect that presenters will be open to feedback from fellow participants.

This symposium is funded by Waseda University Top Global University Program and will be held in person on Waseda University campus. Depending on availability, we would be able to cover full or partial travel costs for selected participants. Please indicate in the proposal form if you require funding support.

We would deeply appreciate it if you could circulate widely the information and encourage qualified researchers to apply to our event.



Gracia Liu-Farrer (Waseda University)

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