Forms of agency enacted by international Ph.D. holders in Australia and Ph.D. returnees in China to negotiate employability

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The notion of agency has been widely used in various disciplines but is relatively new in the field of employability of international graduates and returnees. This discussion paper addresses this gap by unpacking the determinants that influence the enactment of agency of international Ph.D. graduates in Australia and Ph.D. returnees in China. In essence, the key determinants in Australia include permanent residency, high expectations and discrimination from some local employers, and the development of multiple identities of international Ph.D. graduates. In contrast, the signifiers in China are Ph.D. returnees’ residency status, work experience, and the social networks that they establish with the authorities in organisations. To navigate these determinants, international Ph.D. graduates in Australia often enact three forms of agency: essential needs-response agency, structure-navigating agency, and strengths-based agency, whereas Ph.D. returnees in China are engaged with two forms of agency including extreme structure-navigating agency and social capital-based agency.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalCompare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Ph.D. holders
  • agency
  • international graduates
  • returnees
  • employability

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