College of Humanities

Why do International Students Leave Home to Study at UKZN?

A PhD Education graduate believes the findings of her research will help UKZN improve its strategies to heighten the experiences of international doctoral students, create a more supportive environment and promote internationalisation policies in South African universities.

Dr Adetola Oyewo’s research examined why international students leave their home country to study at UKZN and their first-year PhD experiences at the University.

It also researched the Rhodes/ Fees Must Fall protest and how it impacted international doctoral students because of the long-term protests.

Oyewo believes her research is significant ‘given the waves of student protests at South African universities even before COVID-19’.

Oyewo decided to pursue a PhD because of her interest in being a professor and contributing to the knowledge economy. She chose to study international PhD students’ first-year experiences because she was an international student herself and wanted to understand how others adjusted to their new environment.

She discovered that the students experience unique challenges due to the distance from their home country, and the University was not always aware of these challenges, especially ‘the unfriendly immigration laws and visa procedures’.

The findings indicate that international PhD students leave home because of several push factors, which spur them to study at UKZN, resulting in a brain gain for the University and a brain drain for the home country.

The study ‘advances theoretical insights into the push factors from other African countries, which were numerous, however, the financial pull factors comprising fee remission and opportunities to tutor/lecture at UKZN propelled international students from countries in Africa to UKZN.

Conducting research as a PhD student can be challenging, and Oyewo faced her trials. She had to juggle family, work, study, and meeting deadlines, especially as she had two children during her studies. Her supervisor, Professor Sadhana Manik, taught her the importance of attending conferences and building international collaborations.

Oyewo was awarded a DVC postgraduate bursary as well as PhD student fee remission – offered to full-time PhD students for three years. Her research will benefit society by contributing to the literature on the internationalisation of education and international PhD students’ migration to South Africa to study and their experiences.

She is also grateful to her support system of family and friends.

Oyewo’s mother Ms Gbadebo Gbemisola said: ‘My daughter has made me and the entire family proud. It’s a step towards the actualisation of her dream of becoming a professor!’