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Title: Considering agency in the education-migration nexus : a temporal analysis of structure-agency relations with student-migrants
Author: Brotherhood, Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 9351 4704
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis employs narrative research methods to provide empirical and theoretical insights into the role of individual agency in international students’ pre-, during- and post-study trajectories through the education-migration nexus in the UK and Japan. To engage with these issues, I assume a life-course perspective which posits “individuals’ ways of constructing their life-course through choices and actions” (Eteläpelto, Vähäsantanen, Hökkä, & Paloniemi, 2013, p. 59) as the locus of their agency. Drawing heavily on the “chordal triad” model of agency, the project places an empirical emphasis on capturing individuals’ “temporal-relational contexts” (Emirbayer and Mische, 1998), thereby accounting for the reciprocal influences of temporality and structure on international students’ agency throughout their trajectories. From such a perspective, the thesis seeks to answer the following central research question: How is the agency of student-migrants developed and practised throughout their trajectories through the education-migration nexus? The study uses a two-phase research design, combining policy trajectory analysis with a longitudinal qualitative phase with individual student-migrants. Both phases of the study were undertaken in national contexts where student migration is quantitatively and qualitatively significant: the UK and Japan. Phase 1 of the study consisted of a comprehensive analysis of the legal regulatory frameworks governing student migration in each country. This stems from the knowledge that migration regulatory frameworks dictate the legalities and illegalities of mobility across national borders and are critical factors to consider in the study of migration processes. I use an established migration policy trajectory analysis methodology to analyse migration policy change in each national case between 2004-2018. The regulatory frameworks for international students were analysed on an ordinal scale according to 7 indicators of receptivity, using the methodology developed by researchers in the European Commission-funded Temper project. In phase 2, I gathered intensive qualitative evidence of individual student-migrants’ trajectories through the education-migration nexus, and their agentive orientations throughout. These data were gathered via the biographical-narrative interpretive method. Participants were interviewed twice: once in their final year of study (~8 months prior to graduation in the UK, and ~3 months prior in Japan), and once ~8 months after their graduation in both countries. 26 degree-mobile international students completed the study, 10 in the UK and 16 in Japan, with data being collected over a period of 18 months between October 2017 and April 2019. The findings indicate that the role of agency is dynamic within the education-migration nexus, reflecting the evolving relationship between individual student-migrants and their temporal-relational contexts, and the simultaneous evolution of the individual’s life-course project. The results of phase 1 of the study indicated that, over time, within, and between the case study nations, the migration regulatory frameworks affecting the study participants varied in their receptivity, stability, and transparency. The importance of these factors was evident in phase 2. Participants’ narratives revealed that unreceptive regulatory frameworks limited the available trajectories of action, while unstable or opaque regulatory frameworks made the identification of up-to-date and comprehensible information a critical factor in navigating post-study transitions. Interview data also revealed participants’ changing agentive orientations in response to changes in their context, with habit, imagination, and judgment each providing tools that individuals could use to navigate the challenging terrain of their student migration trajectories. While all participants were influenced by context and circumstance, they exhibited the capacity to draw on these tools when making choices and taking action in the pursuit of their goals.
Supervisor: Marginson, Simon ; Oancea, Alis Sponsor: JSPS ; Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Migration ; Education ; Transnationalism