International students’ work experience in London: Case of South Asian students

PhD thesis

Acar, E. 2023. International students’ work experience in London: Case of South Asian students. PhD thesis Middlesex University Business and Law
TypePhD thesis
TitleInternational students’ work experience in London: Case of South Asian students
AuthorsAcar, E.

The number of international students is increasing in universities around the world with the growth of the internationalisation of higher education institutions (Waters and Brooks, 2011, Buckner, 2019). However, migration researchers have largely ignored the study of international student mobility. King and Raghuram (2013) highlighted that the studies on international students ignore the multiple roles of students as family members, refugees, asylum seekers and as actual or potential workers (King and Raghuram, 2013).
In the UK context, most international students work part-time during their studies in lowskilled labour markets with low wages. These international students have increased in number, and currently, they are a significant part of the host country workforce, especially in retail, hospitality, and cleaning. However, until recently, their labour role has been ignored (Nyland et al., 2009).
With the economic boom, India has a fast-growing middle class; the Indian middle-class’s spending power and the investment in education have increased (Baas, 2013; King and Sondhi, 2018). According to Power et al. (2003), middle-class families try to achieve the best positional advantage for their children because the middle class has been internally differentiated by prestige. Therefore, international education could be seen as a strategy for positional advantage and reputation (p.2).
The new middle-class families are able to arrange the financial requirements for visa application and pay their children’s first term fees. However, international students have to look after themselves in the host country, buy books, food and pay the rent. Besides the essential living costs, some students have to repay their large student loans, which are taken out to enable them to come to the UK (Baas, 2010a). While there has been some scholarly interest in international students’ work experience in Australia, there has been a relative lack of research in the UK. Therefore, this thesis addresses this important gap and answers how international students adapt to their low-skilled labour roles as middle-class international students.
The research was designed as a qualitative study and involved 25 semi-structured interviews with 2 Bangladeshi, 16 Indian and 7 Pakistani international students who were studying at Middlesex University at undergraduate or postgraduate level. 4 The thematic analysis of the interview data identified different rationales or motivations international students have for studying abroad: Duration of study (cheaper costs of tuition fees and living costs); Influence of the Family (parents’ desire for the highest level of education); London (multicultural city and student hub, childhood dream); Recognised Degree (improving their employability opportunities in the future, particularly female students) and Prestige (studying abroad is a prestigious achievement in their society).
Moreover, the thematic analysis of the data illustrates the work experience of international students: The Factors behind the working decision (finance, work experience, extra money for leisure, peer influence); low-skilled work experience; the factors behind shifting their jobs within irregular and regular work (maximising income, flexible working hours, religion) and the impact of work-life experience on international students (confidence, freedom, gender equality and life experience).
The findings of this study provide new insight into student mobility studies. The importance of the work opportunities in the host country can be integrated into the migration policies.

Sustainable Development Goals4 Quality education
5 Gender equality
8 Decent work and economic growth
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
Department nameBusiness and Law
Institution nameMiddlesex University
Publication dates
Print14 Feb 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Feb 2023
Accepted25 Jan 2023
Output statusPublished
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