Study Abroad

Study abroad

The University Times

ABSTRACT For many years there has been research on study abroad, student mobility and
international student exchange; however in the last two decades the volume and scope of this work has
increased significantly. There are now specific academic journals, a host of new books each year,
expansive reports by international research organizations, and an increasing number of annual
conferences that are all publishing on trends and issues related to this phenomenon. Yet surprisingly, in
comparative education scholarship much of this research still appears relatively infrequently in its main
journals. This article examines the seeming contradiction of, on the one hand, more student and
institutional participation in worldwide international education each year and new research
accompanying this trend and, on the other hand, the relative scarcity of reflection on this activity in the
core comparative education journals. The article takes stock of the international education-themed
research that has appeared in the past in a selection of comparative education journals, shares the
editors’ advice to future authors seeking to submit research on these areas, and concludes with some
reflections on the future direction of scholarship in international education and comparative education.
Today, the mobility of students and staff is a growing phenomenon in higher education activity
around the world. Study in another cultural, geographic, and linguistic context offers a tremendous
wealth of potential areas for research. However, while this activity in international education
expands, surprisingly, research on study abroad, student and staff mobility, and international
student exchange still appears relatively infrequently in the leading comparative education journals.
This gap indicates an unfortunate missed opportunity to better bridge the two fields – usually
described as more linked by their commonalities than separated by differences in focus or methods
of inquiry. Often, the overriding description of comparative education is still that of an activity that
is generally scholarly, interdisciplinary, and analytical. Meanwhile, international education is often
seen as more practitioner oriented and concerned with academic mobility, international exchange,
development aid and describing, examining and analyzing educational systems in foreign contexts,
but less concerned with scholarly analysis that employs established or new theoretical and
methodological lenses. While some aspects of this perception have merit, it is also somewhat
Rigorous research on the phenomenon of international education has the potential to greatly
expand the scope of comparative education research, understanding of systems, theory
development, and policy making. Indeed, research on the wide scope of international education
activity happening around the world today, and consideration of its myriad implications for all
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
levels of education, types of programs and projects, and geographic regions offers a wealth of
complementary paths and patterns of academic activity that raise interesting issues and intersect
with many of the traditional and also newer themes also of interest to the scholarly comparative
education community. Further, while much of the research on issues in international education is
currently published in a wide range of academic journals – in international education publications
and also in political science, intercultural study, sociology, psychology, and business management
among others – their themes and in many cases methodology and focus overlap strongly with areas
that should also be of interest to the comparative education journals but still appear relatively
infrequently in those publications.
The aim of this article is thus to examine the publication activity on topics in international
education – specifically study abroad, student mobility, and international student exchange – in a
selection of comparative education journals. In so doing, we hope to encourage more active
inclusion of research and studies in these areas in future dissemination of comparative education
To advance this development, this paper offers a discussion that is organized into three
I. A brief overview of comparative and international education as historically linked fields, and
the advancement of international education research within the overall comparative education
II. A general accounting of the number of articles on study abroad, student mobility, and
international student exchange that have appeared over the past decades in five of the leading
American, European and Australian and New Zealand comparative education journals.
III. A summary of the reflections by the editors of comparative education journals, who were
contacted for this article and asked to give their general views on areas of research they
regarded as important in international education studies, and their advice for future
contributors writing on these topics. This section also includes a brief discussion of
international education themes that have been covered in these five comparative education
journals since their founding. The article then concludes with our own reflections on the
publication directions we can expect in the future in light of both the interests expressed by
comparative education editors as well as the general proliferation of dedicated research dealing
with a range of relevant topics in international education.
I. Comparative and also International Education
Since the inception of comparative and international education as academic enterprises, the field
has been ‘plagued by vagueness and a multiplicity of definitions and interpretations’ (Kalovannaki
& Kazamias, 2009). Attempts have been made to clarify the meaning of various terms. In the initial
volume of the first journal dedicated to the field, Friedrich Schneider attempted to establish a
terminological base for the new discipline by going into great detail about the distinctions in the
terms ‘international, foreign, and comparative pedagogy’ (Schneider, 1931/32). In 1956, the first
professional society to be organized for academics identifying with the field named itself the
Comparative Education Society, although its name did not signal that foreign and international
education would be excluded. However, after a decade, some prime movers of the field decided
that it was appropriate to rename the society, because comparative education did not completely
reflect their interests and foci. Thus, in 1968 the Board of Directors unanimously voted to change
the name to the ‘Comparative and International Education Society’ (CIES) (Swing, 2008), because
these were seen as two distinct epistemic domains.
Three years prior to this, when the British section of the Comparative Education Society in
Europe (CESE) was organized, it was initially decided to exclude the word ‘International’ from its
name, mainly because international education was located elsewhere in the British academy.
Britain had long had a focus on colonial studies and education in developing countries, but scholars
involved in educational planning, as well as in education policy and practice in the developing
world, rarely identified with comparative education because it encompassed the more academic,
theoretical, and research frameworks for analysis of education in one or more countries, more
often than not in the developed world. In contrast, at least in Britain, international education was
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
oriented toward the developing world, and its focus was on practice and countries that had not yet
fully developed their systems of education.
In 1979, the British section of the CESE declared itself to be the British Comparative
Education Society. However, four years later the association was renamed the British Comparative
and International Education Society, reflecting growth of the international development
constituency in the group. In the following years, the international constituency grew stronger
while the number of comparative educators diminished to the point where, in 1997, the Society
renamed itself again – as the British Association for International and Comparative Education
(Sutherland et al, 2007).
Though ‘comparative education’ and ‘international education’ represent distinct domains,
Brickman and Fraser (1968) remind us that there is great overlap between the two. In other words,
certain dimensions of international education can and ought to be academic, theoretical, and
research oriented, even though its focus remains on cooperation, understanding, and exchange. For
example NAFSA, the American Association of International Educators as well as the Forum on
Education Abroad, recognizes the importance of research and academic input in its enterprises and
has each year over the past decade organized greater numbers of panels on research and theory at
its annual conferences.[1] Originally called the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors,
NAFSA changed its name in 1990 to reflect its focus on all aspects of international education and
According to Theodore Vestal (1994), when the term ‘international’ is used by comparative
and international educationists, they usually refer to the following activities and concerns: (a) study
of the education of other peoples in other countries; (b) educational exchanges and study abroad;
(c) technical assistance to educational development in other countries; (d) international cooperation
in educational development through international organizations; (e) comparative and cross-cultural
studies in a variety of subjects and disciplines; and (f) intercultural education. Even though Vestal
has given a long list of activities and concerns, his list is not exhaustive. For example, he neglects to
mention the role that international schools play in the field (Bunnell, 2008). Some of Vestal’s
activities and concerns are clearly closely identified with comparative education, while educational
exchanges, study abroad, technical assistance and development education are more akin to
international education.
Professional groups such as the British Association for International and Comparative
Education (BAICE) as well as the US Comparative and International Education Society (CIES)
clearly include technical assistance and development education in their academic and professional
agendas. At the annual CIES conferences, for example, representatives from organizations such as
the Academy for Education Development, Chemonics International, the International Bureau of
Education, Juarez and Juarez, the New Educational Fellowship, Open Society, Save the Children,
UNESCO, UNICEF, and the World Bank make regular presentations on panels alongside academic
colleagues. Academic programs in comparative education at research universities usually include
courses related to international education in their curricula. At UCLA, for example, almost all
comparative education students are expected to take courses on international development
education. And the journal of the BAICE, Compare: a journal of comparative and international
education, publishes extensively on development education issues, and even publishes special issues
on development.[2] However, research that is focused directly on international education as it
involves study abroad, mobility or international educational exchange – whether these activities are
looked at as educational phenomena in their own right that warrant particular attention, or as
studies of student, faculty or staff participants and outcomes (Byram & Dervin, 2008) – have
appeared less frequently.
II. Research on Study Abroad, Student Mobility, and
International Student Exchange in the Comparative Education Journals
In this section we report on our efforts to tabulate the research published on study abroad, student
mobility, and international student exchange in five of the main comparative education journals
over the past decades: Comparative Education Review (1957-2010), Compare: a journal of comparative
and international education (1969-2010), The International Education Journal (IEJ): comparative
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
perspectives (1999-2011), Comparative Education (1964-2010), and Research in International and
Comparative Education (1996-2011).
While hardly an exhaustive list of journals representing the many disciplinarily diverse
publications where comparative education scholarship can appear, these five journals were selected
as obvious places where much of the comparative education scholarship has indeed been published
to date in the English language. Although we could have searched many more journals that publish
research on international education, we purposefully limited ourselves using fairly basic criteria:
education journals with ‘comparative’ or ‘compare’ in their titles, journals that represent several
comparative education societies around the world, and journals where indeed much of the
international education research that is deemed to be of a comparative nature has been published.
Finally, we could also have searched numerous recent book publications and research reports[3],
but doing so would also have gone far beyond the scope of this article. It was not our intention to
provide a metric to measure what constitutes a deficient, sufficient or over-coverage of the research
themes in these publications – a task that goes beyond the scope of our study and may not even be
possible. However, we made an effort to search for articles in a deliberate way that helped us to
distinguish what we felt were the differences between articles covering some aspect of our themes
of interest in a ‘substantive’ way and articles our keyword searches merely identified but which
were not sufficiently related to our search goals. We operationalized our understanding of
‘substantive’ to imply a discussion in which one or several of the above-mentioned themes were
the direct focus of the article, not merely mentioned in the body of a paper dealing with a different
thematic area.
Using the terms ‘study abroad’, ‘student mobility’, and ‘international student exchange’ free
of quotation marks in our search, we were able initially to capture the largest number of possibly
relevant articles within each journal. Searches were conducted through the online websites hosting
the respective journals: JSTOR for the Comparative Education Review; Taylor & Francis for Compare
and Comparative Education; Symposium Journals for Research in Comparative and International
Education; and the IEJ.CJB.NET website hosted by Flinders University. We then employed further
search terms, including ‘education abroad’, ‘foreign study’, and ‘international education’ to check if
the same articles also appeared under these terms. Since ‘study abroad’ is commonly referred to as
‘student mobility’ in Europe, we looked for the total number of study-abroad related articles using
the query ‘study abroad’ and also ran a separate query using ‘student mobility’ as a way to capture
all potential articles related to study abroad generally. The majority of the articles we found in
Compare and Comparative Education Review came up under the ‘study abroad’ query, while those in
Comparative Education were primarily classified using ‘student mobility’ and those in the
International Education Journal: comparative perspectives used ‘student exchange’. When we expanded
our search terms to also include ‘international student exchange’ the numbers grew slightly but not
While our list of possible terms and synonyms could have been even larger and more
expansive – to also include, for example, ‘foreign education’, ‘foreign study’, ‘internationalization’
and other closely related terms – our search nevertheless initially yielded a large body of articles in
each journal, which we then had to narrow down further for our second analysis. In this way, for
example, our initial search of the Comparative Education Review (CER) led to 604 articles, but the
narrowing down process then resulted in only 18 we deemed to be ‘substantive’ enough for further
analysis in terms of our focus. Results that came up in the initial search included all articles that had
the search term within the title or body. The search term was entered without parenthesis around
it so it would include as many results as possible. This led to many non-relevant articles appearing
under the initial search. Many of these articles were not focused on study abroad but may have
mentioned it once or twice in passing. Other articles appeared because they contained the words
‘study’ and ‘abroad’ but not necessarily together to mean ‘study abroad’. Once we narrowed down
our initial search, we were able to conduct a more detailed review of the remaining articles to
determine their relevance to our themes of interest and study the specific topics and questions,
research methods and findings that were addressed. Our analysis of that smaller stack began by
looking first at article title and abstracts and then went into a more detailed review of the contents
of the article itself. The summary of our search is illustrated in Table I.
In terms of the CER, a special issue in 1984 included eight of the articles we deemed to be of
relevance to our search. Of the remaining, five were published before 1974 and five after 1990. In
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
the journals Compare and Comparative Education Review, all the articles appeared under the search
‘study abroad’ while only select articles also appeared when the other search terms we used. In the
journal Compare, using ‘study abroad’ as our search term, 168 search results initially appeared but
only 12 articles were significantly focused on study abroad. A search was also conducted using the
terms ‘student mobility’ and ‘international student exchange’ with seven and eight articles
respectively in which student mobility or international student exchange was the main focus of the
article. All of the articles that appeared using our ‘student mobility’ and ‘international student
exchange’ searches also appeared when we used ‘study abroad’ as our search term in Compare,
indicating that ‘study abroad’ is their dominant term of use. The term ‘study abroad’ was also the
dominant term in the Comparative Education Review, while ‘international student exchange’ was the
dominant term used in the International Education Journal: comparative perspectives. In our search of
Comparative Education and Research in International and Comparative Education, use of the additional
search terms ‘foreign study’, ‘education abroad’, and ‘international education’, did not lead to a
larger number of relevant articles.

While our searches did not include more extensively studying additional journals or the many
books and reports published on themes of study abroad, mobility, and exchange, we were curious
about future scholarship we can expect on these areas. One way to look at that was to mine some
of the research at the Center for Global Education, formerly located at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles and now at the University of California, Los Angeles, and its clearing
house for thousands of research studies on US students who go abroad and international students
who come to the United States. In light of that question we reviewed some of the recent doctoral
dissertations that have been published on study abroad and are available on the ProQuest
Dissertations and Theses A & I database. Using this search engine, we found many more studies on
international education since 1965, approximately 257 of which exclusively focus on study abroad.
We conducted that search using the term ‘study abroad’ and by manuscript type of doctoral
dissertation, and only those published in English. Thus, although somewhat limiting our research,
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
we found it interesting that 210 of these studies were written only within the last 11 years. Of the
dissertations we studied, the following five topics were most researched on study abroad:
intercultural competence and development; personal growth and identity development; language
learning and acquisition; administration and policy; recruitment, participation and re-entry.
While most of these dissertations came out of education departments, they represented a
wide range of disciplines, including psychology, health and kinesiology, engineering, linguistics,
and Spanish. Under the search term ‘international student exchange’ only six dissertations appeared
under that keyword search while ‘student mobility’ only had two that specifically focused on study
abroad. The majority of the dissertations and theses under ‘student mobility’ refer to educational
access and equality, not international education exchange. An additional research using the term
‘international students’ by index term (keyword) resulted in 400 dissertations, with 348 alone
produced since 2000. Using keyword classification, we found that the dominant search terms were
‘study abroad’ and ‘international student exchange’. Notable is that 14 dissertations in the last few
years originated from one institution, the University of Minnesota, which has a strong comparative
and international development education graduate program and a relatively new doctorate of
education program for international educators, with a particular focus on study abroad and
international exchange administration and development. Prior to 2003, only two dissertations
focused on study abroad.
While we can see from the above discussion that our international education themes of
interest – study abroad, student mobility, and international student exchange – were not largely
covered in any of the five major comparative education journals we searched, these themes are,
however, being addressed with increasing vigor by emerging scholars that are coming out of
graduate programs. This rather striking increase in dissertations on international education and
study abroad appears to indicate that this has become an especially interesting research area for
young scholars over the last decade. This should bode well for the future research output in these
areas. It may also signal that new directions in international education research will likely be
explored in the future. For now, though, we feel that the greater productivity on international
education by young scholars, on the one hand, but the still relative lack of publication of that work
in the comparative education journals, on the other hand, indicate several possibilities: 1) Many
dissertations remain unpublished or may not yet be seen as meeting the standards for publication in
the top comparative education journals; 2) The topics covered may not so far have been deemed
appropriate by the editors of these publications, if they were even submitted for review; 3) The
comparative education journals may be slow to take interest in this line of research or may not
regard it as rigorous enough or relevant scholarship. The question remains, then, as to whether this
trend will change over time, if the quality of submissions on international education topics is not
the primary impediment to its wider publication. We put some of these questions to comparative
education journal editors themselves and discuss their answers in the next section.
Overall, our search in the five comparative education journals is not necessarily meant to
suggest that they are insufficiently addressing research on study abroad, student mobility, and
international student exchange. However, as the next section elaborates, published scholars
working in international education have encouraged more cross-fertilization between research on
international education and comparative education scholarship, and voiced their hope that this
work becomes more frequently disseminated in the existing comparative education journals in the
future. Further, the editors of these journals also welcome more study of these areas and are eager
to offer concrete suggestions about future topics of interest to them and the level of scholarship
they expect in submissions. Finally and as noted already, beyond these five publications there are
other academic journals – albeit not focused on comparative education per se – that publish work
on themes of international education and cover these areas more extensively. These include the
Journal of Studies in International Education; Frontiers: the interdisciplinary journal of study abroad; the
International Journal of Intercultural Relations; the Journal of Research in International Education; the
International Journal of Educational Research; and Higher Education, among others. Unfortunately, the
scope of this paper did not permit us to also conduct a study of their coverage on our specific
themes of interest as well.
The second step of the analysis is detailed in section III below, where we discuss the major
themes that each of the five comparative education journals cover. We then offer comments by the
editors of these journals, who were contacted in preparation for this article. Their comments are
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
anonymously summarized and we greatly appreciate their insights and reflections on the state of
the art and the guidelines they have generously provided to scholars who wish to submit
manuscripts in the future.
III. Recent Research Themes Published in International Education
Comparative education journal editors acknowledge the need for more work on themes in higher
education to appear in comparative education scholarship. A February 2011 editorial in the
Comparative Education Review advocated first among a long list of ‘understudied areas’ that there be
more ‘submissions analyzing the politics of international education and cultural exchange’ in the
form of more policy studies, particularly on US-based international education activity in the
future.[4] This ‘open invitation’ requested in particular papers on the ‘diplomatic and cultural
impact’ of programs such as Fulbright (Editorial, 2011, p. 3). In a 2007 editorial in the International
Education Journal, the editor also expressed the hope for a wider breadth of research covering
international education topic areas:
[The IEJ seeks to] engage a larger audience of contributors and readers who consider themselves
not only as researchers in the field of comparative and international education, but who work in
more specific subject areas such as intercultural studies, international development,
internationalisation and globalisation, leadership and policy, multiculturalism, peace studies,
postcolonialism, and youth studies. (Denman, 2007, p. 1443)
Before we summarize the comments from the journal editors we contacted, we provide in Table II
an overview of the areas within study abroad, student mobility, and international student exchange
that have been covered in the five noted comparative educational journals during the decades since
their founding.
The five journals Topics covered related to our three areas of interest: ‘study abroad’, ‘student & staff
mobility’, ‘international student exchange’

May 1984 special issue: Introduction overview on foreign students; challenges to the
American higher education system for accommodating foreign graduate students; the
economic and policy impact of study abroad on developing countries; the impact on
national development of African graduate students trained abroad; the experience of
Asian students seeking higher education experiences abroad; international students
and changes in the fee structure in Britain; international students seeking higher
education in Australia; a bibliography of research on international students and study
abroad programs

The impact of a social science course on the learning experiences of European
Erasmus students at a university in Finland; a case study of Chinese graduate students’
intercultural learning experiences at one British university; a report of the findings of a
study of Chinese student integration at UK universities using an existing theory of
internationalization; a historical study of the reintegration of Japanese learners after a
prolonged period of living and studying overseas; a study of Chinese female
immigrants to the UK and their cultural adjustment process in relation to the author’s
own experiences.
Developing a theory on the perspectives of Mainland Chinese students studying at
Singaporean universities; findings of a study of first year international students at four
UK universities; a study of the experiences of two groups of women from Middle
Eastern countries studying in neighboring countries; case studies of the learning
outcomes of international graduate students in Australian higher education; a study of
Central and Eastern European university students at one UK university and their
attitudes and motivations toward learning; a small qualitative study of the
reintegration experiences of Chinese students after graduate study overseas.
A survey study of two groups of North American students and their motivations to
engage in study abroad, using an established theory and offering policy
recommendations; influencing factors in the recruitment of Chinese students to study
at Australian universities, with policy recommendations; a case study of a sample of
Thai graduate students and their experiences in a distance learning course at one
Australian university, with policy recommendations; using an established instrument
to study British youth in China and the UK and their international awareness, respect
for other cultures and feelings of national identity; a questionnaire study of a small
sample of Indonesian postgraduate students and their adjustment experiences at
Australian universities, with policy recommendations; a case study of Japanese
students in an Australian high school and perceptions of cultural identity, with policy
recommendations; a case study of the counseling services and expectations of
Chinese, Australian and North American university students, using an established
instrument, with policy recommendations; a qualitative study of the psychological
adjustment experiences of Korean students at one university in Japan; a discussion of
the challenges of teaching critical thinking skills to international students, primarily
from Asia, at Australian universities, a suggested new approach and policy
considerations; a study of the internationalization of one university and its impact on
visiting international students and pedagogy, with policy recommendations; a study of
Thai student decision making to study overseas; a small interview study of a group of
Taiwanese students in the USA and integration and identity issues; a comparative
analysis of different approaches among regional Australian cities to attracting the
international student market; a report of the results of a project to support Englishlanguage learners through a course at one Australian university, with policy
recommendations; a discussion and analysis of policies and activities related to
addressing the counseling needs of international students in New Zealand; a case
study of the academic and cultural adjustment challenges of a small group of Asian
students studying at one US university, using an established theory and offering policy
recommendations; a study of the social and cultural adjustment difficulties of
international students generally and with a particular focus on Iranian students in
Scotland, with policy recommendations; an interview study of the language
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
difficulties faced by students from five Asian countries studying in Australia, with
suggestions for remediation; a report on faculty perceptions of international graduate
students’ feelings of isolation from host nationals; a report of one Australian
university’s policy to test international students’ language proficiency using an
established measurement device and grade point average, with recommendations for
stemming attrition; construction and testing of a scale to measure family influence on
Thai students’ decisions to study abroad; a small survey study of a sample of Asian
students at one Australian university and perceptions of quality in education, with
policy recommendations; a study of a small sample of Australian teachers’ language
awareness through a short-term experience in South Korea.

The experiences of US study-abroad students and individual and institutional factors
that facilitate their experiences; a discussion of student affairs professionals and their
role in facilitating international students’ educational experiences; Singaporean
students’ decisions to study in Australian universities and development of a model of
decision making; a historical study using archival records of the development of
Anglo-German university educational exchange programs after the Second World

Table II. Thematic areas covered in the five comparative education journals reviewed.
If the search criteria, the specific keywords used, and our methods of finding and analyzing articles
are accepted as valid, we can draw a number of interesting conclusions from Table II. Among other
things, these findings shed light on (a) the magnitude of research output over time, (b) the focus on
particular research questions, (c) the concentration on particular countries or areas of the world, (d)
the concentration on types of students and where they come from, and (e) types of studies, sample
sizes, and research methods used.
(a) Magnitude of Research Output over Time
First and most obvious, some of the five journals we considered have disseminated more
international education research along our three main themes of interest than have some of the
others. Further, publications on issues in international education have been irregular when
considered in terms of the different decades in which they appeared.
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
For example, the International Education Journal: comparative perspectives has published a great
deal of international education work in the 2000s, the first full decade since it was established, while
the Comparative Education Review and Comparative Education, two more established and older
comparative education journals, have published relatively little over the same period. While there
was a sudden output of relevant articles in the Comparative Education Review in the mid 1980s, this
was confined to the special May 1984 issue on ‘Foreign Students in Comparative Perspective’
edited by Barber, Altbach and Myers. The two decades prior and the two latter have seen relatively
little output: five relevant articles in the 1960s and 1970s combined, and five relevant articles in the
1990s and 2000s combined. The online journal, Research in Comparative and International Education
has published relatively fewer articles on international education in the 2000s (only four) and yet
this has been three times more than the older and more established journal, Comparative Education,
which published only one article of relevance to our themes in the previous decade. The journal
Compare did not publish articles of relevance to our search in the 1970s and 1980s and only one in
the 1990s, but then in the decade of 2000 greatly expanded its output to five publications in the
2000s and another six in 2010-2011. Clearly, the research output has increased dramatically in the
decades of the 1990s and 2000s, and particularly in the more newly established comparative
education journals.
(b) Focus on Particular Research Questions
A large number of the papers we identified as relevant focused either on the student level (i.e.
Chinese students in Australia) or on the level of individual institutions (i.e. a program to integrate
Chinese graduate students at one UK university). At the student level, for example, many articles
addressed issues students face related to intercultural adjustment (psycho-social, linguistic,
academic) either into the host culture or back into their home culture, their motivations to study
elsewhere and related family and other influences on personal decision making, and the support
and services foreign students need to succeed. Some of these papers were focused on as few as five
students, or on only one academic course, while others had samples closer to fifty or a hundred.
Fewer articles looked at international education from a wider angle, whether from a systems-level
perspective (i.e. mobility in the European Union) or at the national policy level (i.e. American
higher education and accommodating foreign students). While there were certainly pieces that
took a wider, more macro-level perspective, and thus in some cases included much larger samples,
they have appeared less frequently in these journals to date. A number of papers also shared results
of particular policies or programs, much like an internal institutional report might, but then often
offered only relatively short discussions in the conclusion that addressed wider potential
implications or made policy recommendations.
(c) Concentration on Particular Countries or Areas of the World
While papers in the Comparative Education Review represented the widest range of world regions
and students coming from different academic systems (i.e. Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, the
United States, and Australia and New Zealand), the other four journals – of course with notable
exceptions – generally published papers on issues and populations geographically closer to where
the journal is physically based. This was most evident with the International Education Journal,
where the overwhelming majority of articles were on students, institutions and issues related to the
Asian and Australasian education systems.
(d) Concentration on Types of Students and Where they Come from
Much of the study of international students in all of these journals was focused on or related to
issues that concern students from Asia. This is not necessarily surprising given the large number of
Asian students who in the past decade have sought higher education in other regions of the world,
most notably the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australasia. This focus on Asian students
has been strongest in the decade of the 1990s and 2000s. Notable for this is the official BAICE
journal, Compare – the official journal of the British Association for International and Comparative
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
Education – a particularly large number of articles of relevance to our search dealt with Asian
students. While some discussion of students from Latin America and Africa was published in some
of these journals in the 1960s and 1970s, there has been seemingly very little attention to this
demographic again in the 1990s and 2000s, where more attention has turned, as noted already, to
Asia and, not surprisingly after 9/11, to the Middle East. Attention to European issues and students
has not seen any significant growth, although the impact of the end of the Cold War and the
Bologna initiative might account for slightly more articles in the 1990s and 2000s. Nearly all of the
papers related to our area of interest looked at students at the level of higher education, with only
very few looking either at the secondary-school level, or at adult learners or immigrants. This is not
surprising given that study abroad, student mobility, and international student exchange are
activities that generally involve participants in higher education.
(e) Types of Studies, Sample Sizes, and Research Methods Used
The types of studies reported most frequently in each of the journals were case studies with
relatively small numbers of students, and relatively often focused on only one institution. These
studies generally relied on samples of students who either filled out open-ended surveys, were
interviewed individually or in focus groups, or some combination of both. Fewer research studies
were based on statistically large samples or national databases. Some papers also reported using an
established scale or theoretical model to test a specific context, or in other cases used their internal
data to generate new models or categories or to suggest a new scale or other measurement
Finally, it would seem obvious that changes in the makeup of editorial teams as well as
significant world political, economic and social developments have a great deal to do with a
journal’s increase or decreased attention to particular geographic regions or research questions.
While our analysis did not account for this and thus we are unable to make a definitive statement
on the finding, it does not seem especially surprising. An example of the latter is the increase in
articles looking at students’ perceptions of identity – a tendency that has been associated with
greater mobility and some of the trends related to ubiquitous and growing discussions of
Suggestions from Journal Editors for Future Submissions
In addition to identifying the research areas covered in each of the five comparative education
journals we have reviewed and illustrated in Table II, we asked the editors of these journals to
share what they regard as research directions in international education – again with a particular
focus on study abroad, mobility and exchange – and what they welcome in future submissions.[5]
The list below summarizes a general consensus among the editors, however there was not
unanimity on every observation or suggestion.
To begin with, all the editors emphasized that a submission should always and at a minimum
meet the general standards expected for inclusion in a peer-reviewed journal. These are that
submissions should be relevant to the focus of the journal, rigorous in their approach and analysis,
grounded in the appropriate literature and context, and seek to make an original and significant
contribution to the existing literature. Beyond that, they offered the following additional
• The editors seek to publish more work on themes of international education and are eager to
receive more high-quality submissions. There have been too few submissions on international
education, study abroad, mobility, and exchange in the past. However, journal rankings have
added pressure on journal editors to publish only papers of the highest quality, so standards for
acceptance in the best journals are extremely high.
• The research must include comparative elements that lend themselves to critical analysis and
• The research should have a strong and well articulated theoretical perspective that is supported
by a synthesized and relevant base of literature. Good articles stand out by analytically
synthesizing related literature so that a theoretical perspective emerges.
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
• Research that is overly descriptive often fails to connect a specific case to the broader literature,
whereas it should contribute to the general understanding of issues relating to international
education, study abroad, and student mobility. Mere summaries of program evaluations, lessons
learned from projects, or reports of findings based on case studies or one-institution studies are
generally of little interest.
• The research needs to be put into a proper context that relates the particular argument to the
general background of the country, region or institution in question, as well as to the relevant
• The editors would like to see more work on international education that also comes with a
broader policy and systems-level analysis and discussion of implications.
• When possible, the editors would like to and do make an effort to offer guidance for articles that
have been rejected, both in order to justify their actions and also not discourage future
• One helpful exercise for those interested in the Comparative Education Review’s editorial process is
to download and read through the open file of editorial correspondence. This offers a clearer
sense of the criteria that may be used for evaluating a range of types of articles. Unfortunately,
this correspondence, however, only offers insight into articles that have been accepted.
• Another helpful exercise is to look at the video interview with the editors of the journal Compare
as a way to get an insight into their editorial decision-making process. This video is available on
the journal website.
• Some of the journals would like to encourage more special issues as a way of keeping the
research robust and current. Calls for special issues are generally advertised through the websites
of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES), the Comparative and
International Education Society (CIES), and the Australian and New Zealand Comparative and
International Education Society (ANZCIES), among other organizations, and are a good
opportunity for theme-specific submissions.
One reason why we chose to take a closer look at the presence, type and frequency of international
education research within the comparative education literature, is that criticism of this work – as
pointed out by the journal editors cited above – is not new and has in fact been repeatedly invoked
in the past. In the leading US and European comparative education journals over the past fifty
years, study abroad as a phenomenon of international education has been relatively under-analyzed
in academically rich, theory-driven and empirically rigorous ways. Leading voices in the field of
international education have previously criticized the research on international education as
sometimes too thematically narrow, overly oriented toward practitioners, and unevenly accessible
within the established higher education journals. Assessment of this situation over time has
become somewhat more positive, however. In his 2011 review of the state of international
education, Hans de Wit voiced more optimism that dissemination as well as the sources of research
on international education had ‘developed rapidly’ (De Wit & Urias, 2011, p. 95) and that one could
now witness ‘an ever increasing diversity’ of thematic coverage and range of scholarly
contributions (p. 102).
A Missed Opportunity?
The argument put forth in this article has highlighted that, while traditionally comparativists have
drawn a general distinction between comparative education on the one hand and international
education on the other, in reality this may in fact signal a missed opportunity to more firmly
integrate the two fields. The active research that today is taking place on issues related to
international education, including research on study abroad, student mobility, and international
student exchange, offers a wide diversity of ways to broaden the comparative education
scholarship. Neglecting significant areas of international education research in the comparative
education literature not only represents a lost opportunity for comparativists but is also surprising
given the long history of activity in international education and the fact that today so many
students and professionals engage in international learning. Just to take study abroad as an example
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
of one of the major activities under the wider umbrella of international education, the exponential
growth in student participation rates over the past decade, perhaps driven largely by the ubiquitous
public rhetoric around globalization, poses major pressures and competing challenges that are
fertile ground for research. For many students, an experience of studying elsewhere represents not
only a formative and often transformative experience, but may ultimately be the most significant
comparative experience they will have in their lives. While the implications of this are not lost on
institutions of higher learning – where the drive to expand study-abroad opportunities,
internationalize their campuses, and expand their global outreach has grown exponentially over the
last decade – for scholars of comparative education there is much to learn through examining
international study in all its complexity and to draw into the wider comparative education theory,
methodology and literature.
Although the default mode in some study-abroad and international offices may still be an
over-reliance on quick, superficial program evaluations, calls to engage in deeper research to more
fully understand the totality of the study-abroad experience have grown more vocal in recent years.
Research informed by an expanding body of work and supported by sound methodology and valid
theoretical frameworks is increasingly available for consumption. More panels and workshops
reflecting critical analysis of issues in international education are organized each year at the
international meetings of the Forum on Education Abroad, NAFSA, the Association of
International Educators, the Council on International Educational Exchange, the American
Educational Research Association, the European Educational Research Conference, and the
conferences sponsored by the European Comparative Education Society, the US Comparative and
International Education Society, the Comparative Education Society of Asia, the Australia and New
Zealand Comparative and International Education Society, and the World Council for
Comparative Education Societies, to name only the largest gatherings. Some of this discussion then
appears in a growing number of increasingly respected peer-reviewed journals, many focused
specifically on international education. Arguably, this growth in research and dissemination is
altering what is sometimes still popular perception of study abroad as an activity students engage in
and administrators facilitate, but not one that can is also richly academic and worthy of scholarly
attention and deep, critical reflection.
Through a review over the past decades of the inclusion of international education
scholarship in at least some of the leading comparative education journals, we have sought through
this article to advocate that research on the phenomenon of international education should have a
greater presence in the development of the comparative scholarship in the future.
[1] Val D. Rust organized such a panel at the 2009 annual conference of NAFSA in Los Angeles; Bernhard
Streitwieser and Val Rust regularly present their research at these annual meetings. The 2011 Forum
on Education Abroad conference in Boston, Massachusetts, saw its strongest attendance yet with its
theme addressing the link between education abroad and theories of international education, a good
sign given that theory and study abroad has not been widely discussed in the study abroad literature
to date. At the 2011 Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference in Montreal,
Canada, 17 of the sessions directly addressed issues related to ‘study abroad’ or ‘mobility’, many of
those addressing specific initiatives currently being undertaken in Asia and the European Union.
[2] For example, see Compare, 31(3).
[3] For a small selection of examples see: Altbach, Reisberg and Rumbley (2009) Trends in Global Higher
Education: tracking an academic revolution; Childress (2009) The Twenty-First Century University:
developing faculty engagement in internationalization; de Wit (2011) Trends, Issues and Challenges in
Internationalisation of Higher Education; Forest and Altbach (20110) International Handbook of Higher
Education; Jones and Brown (2007) Internationalising Higher Education; Kelo, Teichler and Waechter
(2006) Student Mobility in European Higher Education; Knight (2008) Higher Education in Turmoil: the
changing world of internationalization; Lewin (2009) Handbook of Practice and Research in Study Abroad:
higher education and the quest for global citizenship; and Stearns (2009) Educating Global Citizens in Colleges
and Universities: challenges and opportunities.
[4] Surprisingly, as of when we contacted the journal, the CER had only received one submission related
to that particular topic in response to their editorial column.
Bernhard T. Streitwieser et al
[5] Our email was worded as follows: ‘I am currently working on an article for a special issue I am guest
editing for the online journal, Research in International and Comparative Education. The issue is devoted
to discussing research on ‘study abroad’, ‘student and staff mobility’, and ‘international student
exchange’ and its place in the broader comparative education scholarship. I hope to include in the
article some general information about what the editors and reviewers of submissions to your
journal generally look for when they receive work related to research on international education
(specifically study abroad, mobility and student exchange). Besides information for contributors
available on the journal’s website, would you be able to share a few pointers about what you look for
in particular when considering research in these areas and what makes a submission stand out as
worthy for publication? Also, are there any particular editorials I should look at in your journal where
you, or your editorial team, have encouraged more submissions on international education topics or
talked about what thematic areas might be of special interest? Finally, are there any articles on these
themes that you feel could be particularly good models I could point to for future contributors? I am
contacting other journal editors right now as well and will summarize everyone’s general advice and
offer it as helpful guideposts for future contributors. Any advice from you would be greatly
appreciated. Thank you.’
Altbach, P.G. Reisberg, L. & Rumbley, L.E. (2009) Trends in Global Higher Education: tracking an academic
revolution. Boston: Boston College Center for International Higher Education.
Barber, E., Altbach, P.G. & Myers, R. (1984) Introduction: perspectives on foreign students. Editorial in
Comparative Education Review, 28(2), 163-167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/446428
Brickman, W. & Fraser, S.E.S. (1968) A History of International and Comparative Education. Boston: Scott,
Foresman & Co.
Bunnell, T. (2008) The Global Growth of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme over the First
40 Years: a critical assessment, Comparative Education, 44(4), 409-424.
Byram, M. & Dervin, F. (Eds) (2008) Students, Staff and Academic Mobility in Higher Education. Newcastle:
Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Childress, L.K. (2009) The Twenty-first Century University: developing faculty engagement in internationalization.
New York: Peter Lang.
Denman, Brian D. (2007) Editorial in International Education Journal: comparative perspectives, 8(3) (December).
Adelaide: Shannon Research Press.
De Wit, H. (2011) Trends, Issues and Challenges in Internationalisation of Higher Education. Amsterdam: CAREM.
De Wit, H. & Urias, D. (2011) An Overview and Analysis of International Education Research and Resources,
in H. de Wit (Ed.) Trends, Issues and Challenges in Internationalisation of Higher Education, pp. 95-103.
Amsterdam: Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
Editorial (2011) Comparative Education Review, 55(1), 1-7.
Forest, J.J.F. & Altbach, P.G. (2011) International Handbook of Higher Education. Heidelberg: Springer.
Jones, E. & Brown, S. (2007) Internationalising Higher Education. London: Routledge.
Kaloyannaki, P. & Kazamias, A.M. (2009) The Modernist Beginnings of Comparative Education: the protoscientific and the reformist-meliorist administrative motif, in R. Cowen & A.M. Kazamias (Eds) The
International Handbook of Comparative Education. New York: Springer.
Kelo, M. Teichler, U. & Waechter, B. (2006) Student Mobility in European Higher Education. Bonn: Lemmens.
Knight, J. (2008) Higher Education in Turmoil: the changing world of internationalization. Rotterdam: Sense.
Lewin, R. (2009) Handbook of Practice and Research in Study Abroad: higher education and the quest for global
citizenship. New York: Routledge.
Schneider, F. (1931/32) Internationale pädagogik, auslands pädagogik, vergleichende erziehungswissenschaft:
Geschichte, wesen, methoden, aufgaben und ergebnisse. Internationale Zeitschrift für
Erziehungswissenschaft, I.
Stearns, P.N. (2009) Educating Global Citizens in Colleges and Universities: challenges and opportunities. New York:
Sutherland, M.B., Watson, K. & Crossley, M. (2008) The British Association for International and
Comparative Education (BAICE), in V. Masemann, M. Bray & M. Manzon (Eds) Common Interests,
Research on Study Abroad, Mobility, and Student Exchange
Uncommon Goals: histories of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies and its members. New York:
Swing, E.S. (2008) The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), in V. Masemann, M. Bray &
M. Manzon (Eds) Common Interests, Uncommon Goals: histories of the World Council of Comparative Education
Societies and its members. CERC Studies in Comparative Education, 21. Heidelberg: Springer.
Vestal, T. (1994) International Education: its history and promise for today. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
BERNHARD T. STREITWIESER is a senior research associate at the Searle Center for Teaching
Excellence, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA.
He is currently at the Centre for Comparative Education of the Humboldt University of Berlin,
Germany, sponsored by a Fulbright senior research fellowship and a German Academic Exchange
Service (DAAD) faculty grant. He is also a teaching associate in Northwestern’s School of
Education and Social Policy, and a former lecturer in the German department. Between 2006 and
2008 he was the associate director of Northwestern’s Study Abroad office. His scholarship focuses
on international and comparative education and mobility in European higher education.
Correspondence: b-streitwieser@northwestern.edu
EMILY LE is a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Education, University of California, Los
Angeles, USA. Correspondence: emilyle@ucla.edu
VAL RUST is a professor and director, Center for International and Development Education
University of California, Los Angeles, USA. Correspondence: rust@gseis.ucla.edu

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