Internationalization Policies and In/equitable Experiences of African International Students in Canadian Post-secondary

  • Author / Creator
    Denga, Benjamin
  • This study critically interrogates the gaps between policy claims on equitable internationalization and the ground-level realities of Black African graduate international students in a Canadian Public University. The attraction and retention of international students is vital to Canada’s future and sustainability as a country, society, and economy, and the first ever international education strategy of Canada (2014-2019) and its subsequent version (2019-2024) emphasize the importance of this national policy position. Despite multi-level policy and marketing efforts (at federal, provincial, and institutional levels) to attract students from different parts of the world to study, stay, and contribute to enriching Canadian society, insufficient attention has been given to the equitable integration of these students in Canada. In the midst of a global internationalization agenda dominated by an economic rationale, a growing body of research and scholarly critique further underscores the need for more comprehensive and nuanced approaches to understanding and addressing incongruences between the policies and (inequitable) realities experienced by foreign postsecondary students during their post-admission settlement and integration. Within a Decolonial and Critical Race Theory of Education (DCRTE) frame, I deployed Critical Ethnography and Critical Policy Ethnography methodologies to deconstruct how policy claims and inequities shape or impact internationalization and integration experiences of Black African graduate international students in a Canadian Public University. I analyzed policy documents and conducted interviews and focus groups with 16 African students and six officials that support internationalization at the university where this study took place. Findings highlight the different ways in which Black African international graduate students (and in some cases their spouses) are impacted and marginalized by an intersection of policy inequities and contradictions during their migration and integration experience in Canada. Furthermore, the study unveils how and why incongruences between policies and actual experiences persist, and how Black African graduate international students are faced with opportunities to draw on their agency and resilience to resist or navigate (neo) colonial policy-induced challenges that delay, prevent, or influence their equitable integration into the Canadian academy and society. I draw on decolonial and anti-colonial theorists such as Sefa Dei, Fanon, Mignolo, Mbembe, and Walia. Thinking with these theorists helps me deconstruct and confront the coloniality of power and inequity in international education and related policy. Achille Mbembe’s necropolitics lens illuminates and challenges how state and institutional policies exert sovereign political power to decide which subjects are indispensable and expendable, and helps me interrogate how the persisting precarities experienced by Black African international students are exacerbated by policy barriers unfavourable to their integration in internationalization contexts. Harsha Walia’s concept of Border Imperialism allows me deconstruct the manner in which visible and invisible structures of border governance operate through inequitable policies and systems that impact the outcomes of racialized students at different junctures of a migration journey from the border of entry to the point of integration into Canadian society. This study contributes to the critical literature (in internationalization) by problematizing the current approach to internationalization that integrates academic, economic, occupational, political, and socio-cultural dimensions of the student experience from the perspective of Black African international graduate students. It enunciates a decolonial and critical epistemology of internationalization on the margins, presents hybridized theoretical and methodological approaches for understanding and explicating in/equity in internationalization policy and practice, highlights implications for equitable internationalization theory, praxis, and research. It also provides internationalization stakeholders with useful recommendations for more equitable internationalization initiatives. The work pushes the boundaries of internationalization equity by advancing an anti-racist and decolonial understanding in how we see, think, and approach internationalization at the nexus of policy, praxis, and experience among marginalized/racialized African students in Canadian higher education. Ultimately, this study makes a critical case for reimagining and advancing towards more equitable and decolonial internationalization futures in Canadian higher education.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2023
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.