Global Depictions of International Students in a Time of Crisis: A Thematic Analysis of Twitter Data During COVID-19

16 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2020

See all articles by Jenna Mittelmeier

Jenna Mittelmeier

The University of Manchester

Heather Cockayne

University of Manchester

Date Written: October 2, 2020

Abstract

International students have been historically valued by universities around the world for their educational, cultural, and economic contributions to their host countries. Yet, perceptions about international students in the general public have become increasingly mixed in recent years, as research in many countries shows competing public narratives between their perceived societal benefits and challenges. COVID-19 has often led to increased hostility towards international students, particularly those from China or East Asian countries, as demonstrated through reports of increased discrimination towards international students on and off campuses worldwide. As such, there is ongoing need to understand how international students have been depicted and portrayed in this specific time of crisis, so as to encourage more inclusive public support for their experiences moving forward. Our study supports this endeavour by analysing public depictions of international students through a systematic collection of Twitter data and thematic analysis of 6,501 posts made during the immediate COVID-19 crisis (January-April 2020). Our findings confirm competing public narratives about international students that changed over time: initially through stereotyping and depictions as assumed disease carriers, shifting to an outpouring of empathy and support after university campus closures. We also outline troubling themes of racism, discrimination, and negative public depictions, which are of pressing importance for the global higher education sector. In doing so, we outline key concerns and recommendations for universities, particularly for challenging and more inclusively developing public depictions of international students in the long term

Keywords: international students; higher education; international education; COVID-19

Suggested Citation

Mittelmeier, Jenna and Cockayne, Heather, Global Depictions of International Students in a Time of Crisis: A Thematic Analysis of Twitter Data During COVID-19 (October 2, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3703604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3703604

Jenna Mittelmeier (Contact Author)

The University of Manchester ( email )

Booth St West
Manchester, N/A M15 6PB
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/jenna.mittelmeier.html

Heather Cockayne

University of Manchester ( email )

Booth St West
Manchester, N/A M15 6PB
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/heather.cockayne.html

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