The idealised internationally mobile student is presented as seamlessly transitioning across space, translating and neutralising themselves within a globalised higher education (HE) sector. We argue, however, that enacting ‘coming to know’ and writing for doctoral students is a practice which often reinforces ‘otherness.’ We draw on research funded by the UK Council for International Student Affairs, involving running a writing group for international doctoral students in two UK HE institutions and interviewing the participants about their UK HE experiences of academic writing in English.

We identified the challenge for doctoral students of transitioning into an educational landscape whereby they feel ‘caught between places’. Academic writing in this context emerges to produce sensibilities of misinterpretation and (un)belonging, occupying a position characterised by ‘translating cultures.’ As such, the ‘mobile’ international student occupies a precarious space, epistemologically and politically. Within the current political context of Brexit and associated impacts, including ending UK participation in Erasmus student exchanges, decreasing numbers of incoming international students and what is identified as a ‘hostile climate’ (Griffiths & Yeo 2021), the status of the international student in UK HE appears increasingly problematic. Recent calls to decolonise universities (Bhambra et al, 2018) contrast with ‘nostalgia for empire’ (El-Enany, 2020) associated with Brexit. Drawing on a writing workshop pedagogy we are evolving, we explore the cultivation of spaces for academic writing that might traverse the tight borders of what constitutes legitimate knowledge, such that ideas might flow across the confines of space.

Bhambra, G., Gebrial, D. & Nisancioglu, K. (Eds) Decolonising the University. London: Pluto.

El-Enany, N. (2020) Bordering Britain: Law, race and empire. Manchester University Press

Griffiths, M. & Yeo, C. (2021) ‘The UK’s hostile environment: Deputising immigration control’ Critical Social Policy