Diversity without Race

How University Internationalization Strategies Discuss International Students


  • Elizabeth Buckner
  • Punita Lumb
  • Zahra Jafarova
  • Phoebe Kang
  • Adriana Marroquin
  • You Zhang




race, internationalization, diversity, higher education


This article examines how a sample of 62 higher education institutions in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom discuss international students in their official institutionalization strategies, focusing on how ideas of race and diversity are addressed. We find that institutional strategies connect international students to an abstract notion of diversity, using visual images to portray campus environments as inclusive of racial, ethnic and religious diversity. Yet, strategy documents rarely discuss race, racialization, or racism explicitly, despite the fact that most international students in all three countries are non-white. Moreover, racial injustice is externalized as a global issue and racial diversity is instrumentalized as a source of improving institutional reputation or diversity metrics. We argue that a first step to creating more inclusive and anti-racist campuses is to acknowledge international students’ racial identities and experiences with racism in official discourses and strategies.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Buckner

ELIZABETH BUCKNER, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research examines how globalization affects higher education, and recent projects focus on privatization and internationalization. Her recent publications have appeared in Comparative Education Review, Higher Education, and the Sociology of Education.

Email: elizabeth.buckner@utoronto.ca ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6335-0997

Punita Lumb

PUNITA LUMB, is a PhD student in Higher Education specializing in Comparative, International and Development Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Additionally, she coordinates programs rooted in decolonial thought for Student Life at the University of Toronto. Her primary research interests are international and comparative higher education, critical race, decolonial and postcolonial theory. Email:punita.lumb@utoronto.ca   ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8944-549X


Zahra Jafarova

ZAHRA JAFAROVA, is a PhD student in Higher Education specializing in Comparative, International and Development Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. For the past 7 years, she has worked as a coordinator of European Commissions’ Erasmus+ Capacity Building in Higher Education projects and international education. Her research interests are politics of higher education, privatization and internationalization. Email: zahra.jafarova@mail.utoronto.ca


Phoebe Kang

PHOEBE KANG is a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, Canada. Over the past 15 years, Ms. Kang has worked in curriculum development and as an adult English language educator at various Universities and Colleges in Ontario. Her research interests are international students' equity and policy analysis in higher education contexts. Email: ekang@mail.utoronto.ca


Adriana Marroquin

ADRIANA MARROQUIN is a PhD student in Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Within the field of comparative international education, her areas of interest include international student experience, ethical, inclusive and sustainable internationalization and international academic relations. Adriana is part of a research project team that is empirically examining how different higher education institutions in Canada and the world frame and practice internationalization. Email: adriana.marroquin@mail.utoronto.ca


You Zhang

YOU ZHANG, is a PhD student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her research interests are internationalization and regionalization of higher education. Her recent publications have appeared in Sustainability, Higher Education, and the Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Email: youzhang.zhang@mail.utoronto.ca  ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1253-9786



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How to Cite

Buckner, E. ., Lumb, P., Jafarova, Z., Kang, P., Marroquin, A., & Zhang, Y. (2021). Diversity without Race: How University Internationalization Strategies Discuss International Students . Journal of International Students, 11(S1), 32–49. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v11iS1.3842