Underpinned by neoliberalism and spurred by growing international student mobility (ISM), global trends and policymaking on internationalisation are geared towards the maximisation of efforts by countries and institutions to recruit fee-paying international students. For international students, previous studies on their decision-making processes and motivations for studying abroad emphasise the benefit of acquiring a quality education and employability, tending to human capital development. The dominant framing of internationalisation around economic imperatives, which has been criticised by several scholars, limits our understanding of non-economic dimensions of ISM. A review of Sen’s capability approach encompassing both intrinsic and instrumental values supports the framework presented in this article. The framework, illustrated by qualitative data, captures how international students’ rationales for studying abroad include the following four dimensions: educational; experiential; aspirational; and economic. This article raises a critical question about how an internationalisation policy that does not represent a broad range of students’ rationales for studying abroad can be expected to provide a transformative experience for students. The concluding section details recommendations for a re-imagining of policy towards enhancing the international student experience. It briefly points to the timeliness of the proposed framework in the light the possible impact of Covid-19 on the future of ISM.
- international student mobility
- rationales for study abroad
- capability approach