International Students in Canada: Neoliberal Citizens Between Transnationalism and Belonging


The last decade has seen Canadian universities more than double their population of international students. This time frame has been fraught with ambivalent policy depictions of these migrants, oscillating from temporary consumers of higher education to ‘ideal immigrants’ in Canada’s knowledge economy. My work unpacks the transnational geographies currently mapping the meeting points between education migration and citizenship on the Canadian campus. Relying on data from over 70 interviews with students in Atlantic Canada, data complemented by an in-depth analysis of policy and settlement services from federal and provincial government, university and NGOs, my dissertation presents an account of why and how student-migrants orchestrate current and future migration projects in Canada and beyond. The analysis complicates notions of mobility and belonging for international students in the Canadian context, interrogating pathways to settlement in a policy landscape that is covered in a gloss of local opportunities, but where local, national and global neoliberalisms manifest simultaneously to shape migrants’ identity, belonging and marginalization.

Sinziana Chira
PhD Candidate
Supervisor: Pauline Barber
Department of Sociology
Dalhousie University