Self-formation and societal contribution: The case of Turkish international higher education graduates

Research output: Other contributionThesis/Dissertation


More and more international students are studying abroad. According to the latest UNESCO data, 5.3 million students crossed borders to pursue a higher education degree in 2017. This number is significantly higher compared to recent decades. Regardless of international students' increasing significance, most existing scholarly work positioned them in deficit models, neglecting their agency. Self-formation theory, by contrast, provided a novel perspective by positioning international students as strong agents and focusing on their holistic development in international higher education. Building on self-formation theory, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the self-formation of international higher education graduates and their societal contributions resulting from such formation experience.

The present study drew on case study approaches and focussed on a specific group: Turkish international higher education graduates. The selected group was treated as a case of international students. Qualitative interviewing was the primary data collection method, and participant-drawn, life-timeline forms supported it. The study included 50 recent Turkish international higher education graduates who were selected purposively through both maximum variation and snowball methods. The participants varied in terms of their host country, field of study, return status, and gender. The four purposefully selected countries were Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Germany, and the UK. Interviews either took place in these countries or in Turkey, for returnee graduates.

The findings contribute to the conceptual advancement of self-formation theory and indicate that self-formation in international higher education has three broad domains: the educational domain, the social domain, and the civic domain. The study also proposes an ecological approach to understanding self-formation in international higher education, which allows the contextual and temporal dimensions to be incorporated into the analysis. The findings demonstrate the pertinence of the ecological approach, especially for international comparative studies. Further, the study provides a new perspective regarding societal contribution by incorporating it as the continuation of self-formation in the flow from the self-forming individual to society.
Original languageEnglish
TypePhD Thesis
PublisherUniversity of Oxford
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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