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Changing International Student Geographies in the context of Covid-19

   Department of Geography and Planning

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  Dr Ruth Cheung Judge, Dr K Burrell, Dr Arshad Isakjee  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed uncertainty in higher education, affecting not only teaching delivery and access to facilities, but also students’ everyday social lives and opportunities to garner more-than-academic networks, experiences, and markers of ‘being a student in the UK’. These changes have been particularly stark for international students, where experiences defined by mobility, social connection, and explorations of particular places, have instead become marked by immobility, isolation, and online study. Small pockets of activism have emerged in response, such as fee strikes led by international students, but it overall appears that UK universities seem to be continuing with ‘business as usual’, hoping to retain their appeal at the top of global higher education markets, despite high fees, increasingly stringent monitoring of students’ immigration status, and greater UK restrictions on post-study residence rights

Academics have stressed the urgency of garnering deeper insights into international students’ experiences of this uncertain time (Fischer 2020). How have students experienced online forums for learning and belonging; and what are the implications of this for our understandings of education, place, and internationalisation in a (post)pandemic world? How have international students responded to the changing offerings of UK universities; and what does this suggest about the global politics and economics of higher education and the shifting sites in which to gain academic and cultural capital in a postcolonial world? Did the pandemic lead to any changes in international student encounters with or perceptions of UK immigration infrastructure (Beech, 2018)? Are there emergent forms of solidarity, support, or collective identification among international students as a diverse group of migrants?

Applications are invited for a candidate to work on a qualitative PhD project which will generate novel understanding of how international students in UK universities have experienced the Covid-19 pandemic, as migrants and as students. With support, the candidate will design a project centred on the lived experience of international students, that contributes to one or more debates around: 1) the internationalisation of higher education and its shifting political economy (Madge et al., 2015); 2) the diverse experiences of international students as relatively privileged migrants amid the UK’s ‘compliant environment’ (Andrews, 2019); and 3) the changing role of place, (im)mobility, and the digital in international migration.

The candidate should have a strong understanding of qualitative methodologies, and experience of using one or more of: qualitative surveys, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, ethnography. An interest in using creative methodologies for research and dissemination is encouraged.

With support, the candidate will be encouraged to build partnerships from the start of the project, either with international student support bodies (e.g. the UK Council for International Student Affairs) or emergent student-led groups (e.g. Pause or Pay), and to develop impact with these partners (e.g. co-organising a workshop and/or writing a policy report).

This will be a well-supported project, with a supervisory team who all bring scholarly expertise on international migration from complementary perspectives, as well as experience of supporting students pastorally, methodologically, and with partnership activities. They will support the candidate to finish their studies with skills for employability both within and beyond academia, such as lead-authored academic publications, writing for non-academic audiences, giving presentations, and co-organising events.

Candidates should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree, and Masters Degree with Merit/Distinction, or equivalent in a discipline/s focused on human geography.

For any enquiries please contact Dr. Ruth Cheung Judge on: [Email Address Removed]

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: and click the 'Ready to apply? Apply online.'

The University of Liverpool is committed to diversity and equality of opportunity. All applicants will be considered on their abilities and will not be discriminated against on the grounds of age, caring responsibilities, colour, disability, employment status, gender, gender identity, marital status, nationality, race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or any other irrelevant distinction. We actively encourage applicants for this position from a range of backgrounds, particularly those relevant to the project, such as experiences of international migration. 

Funding Notes

This competitive funded studentship supports 3.5 years of full-time studies, covering UK fees (, annual stipend of £15,843 and a research training support grant of £5000 for the duration of the studies. International students will need to cover the differences in fees.
Shortlisted candidates will have an interview on the 9th of March 2022 (date tbc).


Andrews, P. (2019). The compliant environment: Conformity, data processing and increasing inequality in UK higher education. Online Information Review.
Brooks, R., & Waters, J. (2011). Student mobilities, migration and the internationalization of higher education. Springer.
Beech, S. E. (2018). Adapting to change in the higher education system: International student mobility as a migration industry. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 44(4), 610-625.
Fischer, K. (2020). Confronting the seismic impact of COVID-19: The need for research. Journal of International Students, 10(2), 211.
Madge, C., Raghuram, P., & Noxolo, P. (2015). Conceptualizing international education: From international student to international study. Progress in Human Geography, 39(6), 681–701.
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