Mobile student to mobile worker: the role of universities in the ‘war for talent’

Zhen Li, John Lowe

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Universities, as part of the neoliberal regime imposed on them, are being co-opted into a ‘war for talent’, in which national economic success is heavily invested. We examine part of this ‘war’ that affects universities directly – the recruitment of ‘the brightest and the best’ internationally mobile students and their subsequent retention by the host country as high-skill workers. After an account of this war for talent and its implications for higher education, we review the literature on study-migration transitions by international students and identify gaps in both data and theorization. We propose a three-part model that uses the notion of ‘flows’ to organize a research agenda in this field and the possible roles of universities in implementing it. We conclude that only by resisting full recruitment into this global talent war can academic researchers continue to maintain the integrity and value of their professional and disciplinary calling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


  • higher education
  • international students
  • war for talent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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