Engineering Mobility: An ethnographic study of how social media platforms are mediating transnational student mobility from India

11th June 2020 : 14:00 - 15:00

Category: Webinar

Research Group: Higher Education

Speaker: Sazana Jayadeva, UCL

Location: Online

Convener: Simon Marginson

Audience: Public

Seminar Abstract


Drawing on fieldwork focused on student migration from India to Germany, this paper examines the increasingly central yet understudied role of social media in facilitating postgraduate-level student mobility from India. The first part of this paper examines how Indians aspiring to study for a Master’s degree in Germany—previously unknown to each other—are connecting with each other by means of Facebook and WhatsApp groups and supporting each other through the application process. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted within these groups, the paper illustrates how they are not only a key space in which information on study abroad is discussed, dissected, and interpreted, but have also resulted in the production of a whole new body of information, tools, and resources on how to navigate the process of going to Germany for a Master’s degree. The paper argues that these groups can be seen as democratising access to study abroad, to some extent, by dramatically expanding applicants’ social networks and the social capital to which they have access.

The second part of the paper explores new formats of education consultancy that are developing on social media platforms. I illustrate how some members of the Facebook and WhatsApp groups—whom I will call Student Guides—offer support and assistance to other group members for a price, and use the groups to find potential clients. I also explore a new genre of ‘Study Abroad’ YouTube channels, run by Indian international students, which are aimed at supporting aspirant student migrants back home in their application journeys, and at giving them a taste of life abroad. I demonstrate how these YouTubers and Student Guides foreground their student or prospective student status and present themselves as social actors, while actively distancing themselves from education consultants in India, whom they construct as being manipulative and profit-driven.

The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges these new types of migration infrastructure being created on social media platforms are posing to ‘traditional’ forms of education consultancy.


About the Speaker


Sazana Jayadeva is a postdoctoral researcher at UCL IOE. She is a member of the EuroStudents project, which is a comparative study of how the contemporary higher education student is conceptualised in six European countries. Prior to this, as a Leibniz-DAAD fellow, she conducted research on transnational student migration from India to Germany, and the infrastructures mediating this mobility. Her doctoral research, which she carried out at the University of Cambridge, explores the relationship between education, language and class in post-liberalisation India. Sazana’s research interests include education, migration and mobilities, social media, language and language ideology, and social class.