The precarious path of student migrants: education, debt, and transnational migration among Indian youth

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19 Scopus citations


The drive to internationalise campuses is an important dimension of the globalised neoliberal university, and it is leading to large numbers of students crossing national borders to pursue their education. As key global consumers of higher education, middle-class students from India migrating overseas to study are at the centre of this trend. Drawing from ethnographic research conducted at a public university in New York, this article considers how notions of obligation become critical to these students’ movements, their practices of place-making, and their futures. I use the term educational debts to capture the different forms of indebtedness that not only structure these young people’s educational migration, but also inform the sensibility shaping their negotiations of everyday life as overseas students. Attending specifically to their experiences with work, both the part-time labour they provide on campus and their search for work after they receive their degrees, I argue that educational debts position them precariously in the linkages between global education and labour markets. Elucidating how particular experiences of precarity are produced through the process of educational migration, this article offers insights into the differences that exist among the transnational class formations of Indian high-skilled migrant populations in the neoliberal era.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1873-1889
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Aug 18 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Indian youth
  • Student migration
  • debt
  • neoliberalism
  • precarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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