Transnational mobilities of Australia-educated and domiciled professional migrants from Vietnam

Nguyen, Chi Hong (2015). Transnational mobilities of Australia-educated and domiciled professional migrants from Vietnam PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.1020

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Author Nguyen, Chi Hong
Thesis Title Transnational mobilities of Australia-educated and domiciled professional migrants from Vietnam
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.1020
Publication date 2015-11-06
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Gloria Dall'Alba
Ravinder Sidhu
Total pages 239
Language eng
Subjects 1603 Demography
1301 Education Systems
Formatted abstract
Within a global discourse of increasing human capital for competitive advantage, skilled migration following international education – known as two-step migration – has been used by governments as a human capacity building strategy. In government-commissioned reports and studies, the dominant use of economic frameworks describes two-step migrants as rational choice makers. Such approaches have the effect of disembodying transnational mobilities as homogeneous ‘brain flows’ across borders. In contrast, migrants have their own pursuits and experience circumstances affecting their subjectivities in transnational mobilities. By building on extant research on transnationalism, this thesis provides a more holistic picture of education-related and professional migration. It acknowledges the embodiment of transnational mobilities through the relational aspects of migrants’ everyday lives, from forming decisions to migrate, to relocating to the host society and planning for the future. Therefore, understanding the relationality of transnational mobilities requires researchers to attend to skilled migrants’ engagement with the world across multiple spaces and temporalities.

In this study, I examine education-related migration from Vietnam to Australia, portrayed in policy discourse as a human capacity building strategy (Vietnam), and a dual national project of education export and skilled migration (Australia). While acknowledging the discursive influences of a global ‘race for talent’, I argue that migrants always share the world with others and things in intersecting social domains. Their transnational mobilities, reflective of their entwinement with the world, are characterised by open-ended possibilities.

Interpretative conversations were used in exploring how professional migrants in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, negotiated transnational mobilities. By using a snowball sampling technique, I recruited 15 participants who had been former international students in Australia from Vietnam, and who had obtained at least a Bachelor’s degree conferred by onshore Australian universities and acquired Permanent Residence since 1999.

Negotiation of transnational mobilities by the participants is explored in four major areas: decisions to migrate, relocation experiences, work and life aspirations, and uses of transnational ties. Drawing on Heidegger’s phenomenology, I examine these four areas using the concept of being-in-the-world in terms of these migrants’ interactions with others and things, the ways they followed and/or broke with public norms, as well as what mattered to them in their mobilities in relation to the surrounding world.

This thesis contributes further understandings and elaborates distinctive features of two-step migration from Vietnam to Australia in place of earlier research which has analysed Asian migratory flows. The concept of being-in-the-world enables me to argue that two-step migrants from Vietnam in Australia negotiate transnational mobilities through their embeddedness in the socio-political, economic, educational and cultural structures in both countries in relation to their personal concerns and circumstances. Thus, I challenge the assumptions present in ‘race for talent’ policies that disembody professional migrants as homogeneous flows of human capital from one nation to another. Exploring migrants’ entwinement with the world in intersecting domains enables me to add nuances to previous understandings of binaries in migration, including ‘routes’ and ‘roots’, agency and structure, and spatiality and temporality. I also extend my critique to approaches adopted in skilled migration research that examine separate influences from migrants’ interactions with the world on their negotiations of mobilities.

By re-conceptualising transnational mobilities as reflective of migrants’ being-in-the-world, I make interrelated theoretical and methodological contributions to research on education-related migration. The Heideggerian perspective allows me to demonstrate how two-step migration trajectories are produced in and through migrants’ engagement with others and things in heterogeneous times and spaces. I argue that migration is not simply an autonomous choice made by two-step migrants in fragmented events, but is entwined in the politico-economic and sociocultural structures, spanning the historical, the contemporary and the projected future. Two-step migrants’ mobilities are shaped by their involvement in interrelated aspects of their lives, ranging from personal and family concerns, as well as state policies adopted to re-make Vietnam into a market socialist country, and education-related migration policies in Australia. In and through their entwinement with the world, two-step migrants encounter the interconnection of time and space as intersubjective domains in their experiences of mobilities. Their entwinement with the world constrains and opens up possibilities for migrants to negotiate transnational mobilities in achieving the lives to which they aspire. Situating the negotiation of transnational mobilities within migrants’ being-in-the-world addresses the relationality of their everyday practices and decisions, which are not simply confined to experiences in fixed territories, but are parts of multiple spatial networks and temporal linkages.

This study provides a timely response to calls for research that goes beyond economic instrumentality as a motive for skilled migration through exploring migrants’ embodiment of their experiences in interrelated domains. The study contributes innovative approaches and insights to understanding education migrants as mediators of global, national and local processes, with personal motivations.
Keyword International education
Brain drain
Skilled migration
Transnational mobilities
Vietnam's diasporas

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Fri, 30 Oct 2015, 00:38:52 EST by Hong Chi Nguyen on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service