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Running Head: Commodity with a Choice: International Students

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Commodity with a Choice: International Students

Shane Young
HIED 66670, Section 002
Dr. Merrill
November 11, 2014
The world can be a dangerous place. Dangerous situations can range
from imprisonment to death. Alexander Sodiqov was lucky enough to have
survived his imprisonment while on his research contract in Khorog,
Tajikistan, an area in his own country (Karram, 2014). Sodiqov’s predicament
highlights the fact that our world can be a dangerous place for persons
outside their own country (or inside their country as is Alexander Sodiqov’s
case) especially in pursuit of controversial topics or investigating recent

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phenomena. Karram (2014) argues that, in the case of international
students, it is imperative that the host governments do something in cases
where the student is contributing towards the university as the student is
essentially a “temporary citizen” International students contribute to the
host country in a variety of economic, cultural, and educational ways and
this

symbiosis

deserves

some sort

of

protected

status

that allows

international students to feel protected while they are transmitting these
benefits to the host county and host university.
Understanding why there is a need to give protections to international
students requires a basic understanding of the current concept of the
international student and some specific characteristics of the world. Humans
exist in a world that is as Marginson (2013) puts it “nationally bordered”
meaning that the nation state is assumed to be totally sovereign as to affairs
within its borders (p. 13). This view of the nation makes international
students quite a conundrum, but the nations have developed a coping
model: economics. The governments of nations will instead of viewing
international students as “plural cultural subjects or extra-national world
citizens” will treat them as “economic subjects” (Marginson, 2013, p. 13).
This treats international students not as individuals but as a dollar, yen, or
euro or “cash cow” (Marginson, 2013, p. 15).
Current events, such as the arrest of Alexander Sodiqov, have brought
to light a reconsideration of the international student within the university
and ultimately the host country. International students are in a difficult place
as Marginson (2013) explains:

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First they are affected by two national regimes, to a differing extent,
and by the political and legal relation between them. Second,
notwithstanding this, persons who are citizens of one nation while on
the territory of another fall into a gap between the two states. They are
present in two jurisdictions. But in the sense of full agency they are
present in neither. They cannot exercise full citizenship in either place
and this weakens their claim to human rights and security. They are
citizens in the home country but cannot access its legal, welfare and
political systems. Yet in the country of education their different and
inferior status as aliens debars them from participation in at least some
of its institutions and programs. Third, they have ambiguous meanings
for the country of education. They seem to offer both benefits and
threats. (p. 16)
Marginson’s (2013) last two points about the inferior status and
ambiguous meanings of international students in the host country showcase
their unfortunate reality. The environment in the United States is overtly
hostile towards these students in innumerable ways. The United States’
xenophobic responses to 9/11 and similar crises perpetuate the fear that
international students are all potential terrorists and that the host country
must take any and all measures to protect its citizens (Marginson, 2013; as
cited in Banks and Bhandari, 2012). This creates what Marginson (2013)
describes as a culture of “othering” in which international students are
systematically considered as outsiders or “other” that is not equal to a

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citizen and is subject to stricter regulations and the constant threat of
spurning from the host country.
Despite the fact that international students are treated differently from
students with citizenship, they are still subject to many of the same issues
that other students face such as housing, the job market, police, the host
country’s legal system, taxes, and many other areas (Marginson, 2013).
Furthermore, international students are forced into submissive positions
when dealing with labor related rights. An international student is in a
delicate situation of living in a country where they more than likely must
work over the regulated number of hours to be able to afford basic needs,
“but students working outside their visa conditions are scarcely in a position
to complain to public authorities about low rates of pay, demands for
excessive hours or sexual harassment in the workplace” (Marginson, 2013, p.
20).
No matter the difficulties international students face while receiving an
education abroad their numbers are still increasing; the numbers were
recently cited as 3.7 million across the world (Banks & Bhandari, 2012, p.
379). Banks & Bhandari (2012) predict that the future holds a quickly
expanding human population that will produce even more internationally
mobile students seeking education. This data presents an opportunity for
nations across the world to address international students and the host
country’s obligations to them. In fact, it is in the self-interest of nations to
expand inclusion of protections or citizenship to international students.
Firstly, international students boost a host country’s economy significantly

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(Banks & Bhandari, 2012). Secondly, international students are major
consumers of post-secondary degrees (Banks & Bhandari, 2012). Thirdly,
trends show that students are studying in a diverse set of places, no longer
sticking to traditional countries of dominance (Banks & Bhandari, 2012).
International students, much like any other type of students, have
needs regardless of the country of study. They pay tuition and other fees to
the host institution which in turn is dispersed amongst all costs of the
institution and provides a benefit to all students at the university. Depending
on the institution, international may students pay much more tuition than
other students (Kenyon, Frohard-Dourlent, & Roth, 2012). With this in mind, is
it difficult to imagine the financial effect that international students have on
the host country’s economy? International students studying in Australia
contributed approximately $18.3 billion to the economy in 2009-2010
according to the Australian Education International (as cited in Banks and
Bhandari, 2012, p. 380). In the United States, the Institute of International
Education cited a higher figure of more than $20 billion in 2010-2011 (as
cited in Banks and Bhandari, 2012, p. 380).
Not all of this funding comes from any specific type of international
student, but is multidimensional. Degrees are earned by international
students at all levels from bachelor’s, master’s, to doctorate’s. Banks and
Bhandari (2012) cite that “since 2006, foreign-born students have earned
more than 50% of U.S. doctoral degrees in mathematics, computer sciences,
physics, engineering, and economics” (p. 395). International students are an
important stakeholder in United States higher education as they are an ever-

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increasing consumer of these degrees. Despite the previous statistic shown
is there reason to believe that international students will still earn these
degrees from the same countries as now? Or perhaps trends will shift and
students will go elsewhere for their degrees in STEM?
Student mobility is increasing across the globe giving opportunity to
students in a variety of countries. However, this trend is also showing that
students are not choosing the same destinations as their predecessors nor
are they learning in exactly the same fashion: for example students are
studying within their region rather than traveling vast distances or are
receiving their education via different methods (online learning) (Banks and
Bhandari, 2012). South Africa, China, South Korea, Qatar, and Dubai are
some examples of regional destinations of the newly mobile students
(Rumbly, Altbach, & Reisberg, 2012, p. 10). The world is changing and the
mobile students are steadily discovering it.
It is this economic characterization of international students as cash
cows that also presents an opportunity for international students to be
guaranteed

protections

by

their

host

country

and

host

university.

International students are lucrative sources of money for the host country as
well as the host institution because they pay their taxes, tuition, housing,
and dining services plans. This is an important point to highlight because
their contribution to host countries can be incredibly large (as cited in Banks
and Bhandari, 2012). What would happen if these numbers were to
decrease? What if international students instead of choosing one destination
began migrating toward more regional institutions? What if students from

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Southeast Asia began studying in China or South Korea rather than in
Australia? These are real possibilities and global competition is already
happening in higher education institutions (Rumbly, Altbach, & Reisberg,
2012, p. 19).
Higher education institutions should be highly attuned to this topic as
well as they are actively attempting to recruit students: domestic and
international. Recruitment of students and their attendance is still how most
institutions balance budgets and operate, however, there as Banks and
Bhandari (2012) point out there is a large proportion of international students
who obtain higher level degrees, especially in the Science, technology,
Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields (p. 395). With more potential countries
and institutions of study being available for students worldwide it is possible
that these students will go elsewhere. What will happen to some of the PhD
programs in the U.S. if internationals students increasingly receive an
education in their region rather than in the U.S?
Merrill (2010) points to a change in the definition of “public good” and
“positional good” in higher education since globalization has shifted the
landscape. Public good traditionally referred to the societal needs within a
certain nation, but is further complicated by students both domestic and
international performing public works worldwide (Merrill, 2010, p. 49). In
regards to positional good, higher education has shifted from the scarcity of
degrees of selective institutions within one’s own country to those of many
different countries (Merrill, 2010, p. 53). An institution not considered elite in
North East Ohio may be invaluable to someone from South America.

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International students are unknowingly following these redefined terms.
Higher education is still a public good and is being sought after. A student no
longer must travel to a Western nation to get an education that gives them
prestige; instead they have other options.
Students have more options than they have had before. They can
choose to study in another country across oceans, in their regions, or in their
own country via a variety of different methods. Because these students are
increasingly mobile they will utilize their mobility to their advantage making
decisions that benefit them the most and weighing factors that they have not
ever weighed before such as the host country’s attitude and treatment
towards international students. If international students are treated as an
economic

commodity

then

the

market

is

getting

increasingly

more

competitive as competitors are appearing throughout the world. This means
that it is up to host institutions and host countries to compete with their
peers to offer international students the best all-inclusive package. What’s
better than some sort of guaranteed rights and protections?
Marginson (2013) used the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a
basis for the rights and protections that international students ought to have.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has over 30 articles that apply to
all persons throughout the world, regardless of country of origin (Office of the
High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 2014). Article 23 states: “1.
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and
favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. 2.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal

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work” (OHCHR, 2014). Marginson (2013) shows us that this right is routinely
violated because international students must work outside of their visa
restrictions to make ends meet (this excludes students that come from
wealthy families, are supported by scholarships through their government, or
have sufficient income from legal occupations) thus giving employers the
ability to “report” these students, getting them into trouble. Article 12 reads:
“no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family,
home, or correspondence” a violation that occurred post 9/11 in the United
States with the passage of the Patriot Act (OHCHR, 2014).
Host countries ought to use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
as a founding basis for protecting international students within their
institutions and in service of their institutions. This, however, is only the first
step. International students are a growing population that will be weaving
across nations’ boundaries for years to come. In the future the international
community will need to come together to ensure that their citizens abroad
are being treated according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
perhaps someday even leading to a new declaration, specifically for
international students (Marginson, 2013). These are all aspirations for the
future, but the future is bright.
References
Banks, M., & Bhandari, R. (2012). Global Student Mobility. In D. Deardorff, H.
De Wit, J. Heyl, & T. Adams (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of international
higher education. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

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Karram, G. (2014, August 15) Lessons from the arrest of Alexander Sodiqov.
University World News. Issue 330. Retrieved from
http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?
story=20140814094918877
Kenyon, K, Frohard-Dourlent, H, & Roth, WD 2012, 'Falling between the
Cracks: Ambiguities of International Student Status in Canada',
Canadian Journal of Higher Education, vol. 42, no. 1, pp. 1-24.
Marginson, S. (2013) Equals or other? Mobile students in a nationally
bordered world. In S. Sovic and M. Blythman, eds. International
Students Negotiating Higher Education: Critical Perspectives London
and New York: Routledge
Merrill (2010) Public Good, Private Good, Positional Good: Globalization and
Paradigms of Purposes in U.S. Higher Education. In AUDEM: The
International Journal of Higher Education and Democracy, pp. 47-64.
Callimachi, R. (2014, October 25). The Horror Before the Beheadings. New
York Times. Retrieved from
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/26/world/middleeast/horror-beforethe-beheadings-what-isis-hostages-endured-in-syria.html?_r=0
Rumbley, L, Altbach, P, & Reisberg, L. (2012) Internationalization Within the
Higher Education Context. In D. Deardorff, H. De Wit, J. Heyl, & T.
Adams (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of international higher education.
Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) (2014) The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Online. Retrieved from
http://www.ohchr.org/en/udhr/documents/udhr_translations/eng.pdf