Macquarie University
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Knowledge, experiences, perceptions and attitudes of the receiving society to international students

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posted on 2022-03-28, 20:47 authored by Ruth Gresham
International education is a global growth phenomenon. In Australia tertiary international students number practically 300,000, with the rate of growth within the sector twice that of other areas. International education is not only an important export industry for Australia, but one that significantly affects local residents as they perform everyday routines and practices. Bringing together literature from the fields of international education, mobilities and diversity studies, this thesis interrogates how the receiving society recognises, perceives and experiences international students. It analyses the intersection of global and local forces; neoliberalism and student mobilities; and the negotiation of difference in a highly diverse context. Its analysis offers an alternative to conventional intercultural studies that examine relations between seemingly disparate groups by measuring levels of integration, in that it applies a more complex approach and frame of analysis to explore relations in a mixt and rapidly transforming area of Sydney. The research uses a broad mix of ethnographic methods, including ethnographic observations concentrated in three sites, opportunistic discussions, extensive field-notes, focus groups, individual interviews and anonymous questionnaires. Drawing on this rich empirical data, this study argues that global and local phenomena are intricately entwined to affect how everyday relations are constructed and enacted. This approach provides critical, ambiguous, complex and indeed often contradictory insights into relations between international students and the receiving society, as well as offering possibilities for generating new distinctive imaginings for the City of Ryde, New South Wales. Additionally the findings include potential for scaling up into broader political debates that can translate into new policy directions.


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION AND RESEARCH METHODS -- Key research questions -- The study site and the participants -- Conceptual frames -- Research methods -- Reflecting on my time in the field -- Data analysis -- Embedding validity and trustworthiness into the findings -- Chapter outlines -- A HISTORY AND BACKGROUND TO THIS STUDY -- Successive immigration policies post World War II -- Underlying shifts: assimilation, integration to multiculturalism -- Parallel paths: immigration policy and international education in Australia -- The intersection of parallel paths -- Macquarie University and its neighbourhood -- Conclusion -- A LITERATURE REVIEW: INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA -- The political, social and personal status of international students in Australia -- A complex journey of becoming -- Contact zones: 'real' and virtual -- Obstacles and barriers that divide -- Conclusion -- FUELLING FIRES: MEDIA REPRESENTATIONS OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS -- Representations of international students in the Australian media -- Challenging familiar discourses -- Conclusion -- EVERYDAY ENCOUNTERS: INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND THE RECEIVING SOCIETY -- Living with strangers -- Conviviality: it's the little things -- Student lives and the university campus -- Conclusion -- THE GLOBAL FORCE OF NEOLIBERALISM AND ITS EFFECTS ON EVERYDAY RELATIONS -- A local response to universities' marketing 'successes' -- Care and responsibility for student well-being -- Bodies that represent deficit, limitation and burden -- Reworking local spaces -- Conclusion -- CONCLUSION -- Fuelling the fire: media representations of international students in Australia -- Everyday encounters between international students and the receiving society -- The global force of neoliberalism and its effects on everyday relations -- Implications for theoretical debates -- Issues raised for further research -- Signposts: towards a finer future.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 269-338

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Sociology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Sociology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Amanda Wise

Additional Supervisor 1

Kristine Aquino


Copyright Ruth Gresham 2017 Copyright disclaimer:




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