A future of infinite possibilities? Institutional differences in configuring aspirations and transitions

Abstract

The post-study aspirations and/or transitions of international students have been examined in extant literature, with a focus on the perceived and/or experienced exchange value of institutionalised cultural capital (Geddie, 2013; Gomes, 2015; Kim, 2016; Waters, 2005, 2006). Given the recent development and expansion of various types of internationalisation in the sector worldwide, the research focus has been expanded to different country providers and modes of study (e.g., transnational education). However, studying onshore and especially in western English-speaking countries is still perceived by many students as the top of global field of higher education. Nonetheless, relatively little attention has been paid to the role of individual institutions within the same popular study destination, such as the UK, in configuring students’ aspirations and transitions. Drawing on 55 in-depth semi-structured interviews with current and graduated non-EU international students from three UK universities, this study uncovers the complex diversity that underpins ostensibly similar UK higher education degrees. The findings indicate the educational status of the institution makes certain aspirations and transitions unthinkable, possible or probable (Bourdieu, 1984). The cultural and expressive characteristics of three case universities also played a part, alongside different levels and types of career support and advice, in shaping the ways in which they envision future opportunities and choices.

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