Educational mobility and the gendered geography of cultural capital: the case of international student flows between Central Asia and the UK†
International student mobility from East to West has grown rapidly as the middle classes have sought to reproduce their advantage in the context of changing socioeconomic circumstances. Existing research shows that middle-class students and their parents are increasingly using overseas educational qualifications—an institutionalised form of cultural capital—to ensure that they stand out in the competition for lucrative employment. This paper makes two unique contributions to these debates. Firstly, it broadens the spatial frame away from East Asia to the emerging educational markets in post-Soviet Central Asia, and specifically Kazakhstan. This shift allows examination of similarities in students’ accrual of cultural capital between regions, but also highlights spatial specificity in these flows. Secondly, it moves beyond narrowly class-based approaches to spotlight the importance of gender, sexuality, and religion in geographies of cultural capital. Middle-class social reproduction helps drive international student mobility, but class is experienced differently by young men and women in the context of locally specific forms of heterosexuality which in this case study reflect the cultural importance of Islam. Class matters, but to fully understand its importance in student mobility we must trace its intersections with other axes of social difference. Keywords: higher education, international student mobility, cultural capital, class, gender, heterosexuality, religion
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