Migration intentions of international distance education students studying from a South African institution: unpacking potential brain drain

Mittelmeier, Jenna; Gunter, Ashley; Raghuram, Parvati and Rienties, Bart (2021). Migration intentions of international distance education students studying from a South African institution: unpacking potential brain drain. Globalisation, Societies and Education (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14767724.2021.1947202

Abstract

The outward migration of skilled migrants has disproportionally affected the Global South, particularly in countries in Africa, producing what is commonly referred to as ‘brain drain’. Within this literature, there has been considerable focus on the future migration intentions of international students, who symbolise skilled migration. However, much previous literature assumes international education must be obtained through physical mobility, despite the growing provision of internationalisation at a distance, whereby students remain ‘at home’ while studying online or distantly from an institution based ‘abroad’. This study has unravelled the future migration intentions of students studying through online distance education, using a questionnaire of 607 South African, Namibian, and Zimbabwean students in relation to four sets of factors: academic and social adjustment, educational and work experience, socio-economic variables, and individual demographic characteristics. Our findings indicate a complex picture of international distance students’ future migration intentions and significant differences between students based on country of origin, socioeconomic status, and demographic variables. These findings have particular relevance following the increasing shifts to online distance learning following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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