The current political era is one of emerging powers, shifting international and regional relations, and growing populism and nationalism. Within this altered global context, the intense internationalization of higher education that was a feature of the late 20th and early 21st century appears to be in stark contrast to current political trends (Esaki-Smith, 2019; Sá & Sabzalieva, 2018).
This effect is clearly witnessed among nation states. The dynamics that come into play when politics come into conflict with policy and practice in international higher education can be seen in the following very brief snapshot of just four examples. In Canada, political strains with Saudi Arabia have had a direct impact on international higher education as scholarships for students were withdrawn (Karram Stephenson, 2018). The Central European University has been forced to move from Hungary to Austria in 2019 after a new law on foreign branch campuses came into effect (Redden, 2018). Students who have been admitted to American universities have been refused entry to the country on political grounds (Reilly, 2019). Universities in Turkey are struggling to balance the demand from thousands of Syrian refugees for higher education with strong competition among domestic students (Browning, Ergin, & Ishii, 2019).
Beyond the level of nation states, the new geopolitics of international higher education is also being formed at regional and global levels. New regions and places of knowledge production are emerging, such as the Chinese led One Belt, One Road series of initiatives which have included the creation of the Asian Universities Alliance and other higher education projects (Cabanda, Tan, & Chou, 2019). At the same time, these new centres jostle for influence with existing regions, with unknown consequences for competition and collaboration in international higher education.
Yet these political developments are paradoxically unfolding in a globalized higher education setting that has become increasingly ‘universalized, delocalized and depoliticized’ (Shahjahan & Morgan, 2016, p. 93), based on rules of the competition that have to date been set by the institutions and actors in the North American-European axis.
This panel therefore invite papers that examine the role of emerging ‘centres’, regions and places of knowledge production, investigate the possibilities for regional associations and organizations to reshape the world academic order, analyse the impact of contemporary political transformations on international knowledge relations, and explore the scope for new or non-conventional theories and methods on researching the new geopolitics of international higher education.