Students, Workers or Cash Cows? The Double-Commodification of Southeast Asian Students in Taiwan

6th December 2023, 10am (CET)

Lecture as a part of Research Forum “Labor, Mobility and Migration of (East) Asia” at the Institute of East Asian Studies (IN-EAST) in University of Duisburg-Essen.

  • Dr. Yu-chin Tseng (University of Tübingen) will talk about “Students, Workers or Cash Cows? The Double-Commodification of Southeast Asian Students in Taiwan”
  • The lecture venue will be LE 736, IN-EAST University of Duisburg-Essen, Forsthausweg, 47057 Duisburg.
  • You can also join via Zoom (registration)


International student flows in higher education between Asian countries has increased rapidly over the last decade. Building upon recent work on shifting patters of intra-Asia student mobility and the labour migration in Asia, this article examines a unique case that is the convergence of these two, the government-led student-worker scheme, International Programs of Industry-Academia Collaboration (IPIAC) in Taiwan. The IPIAC targets Southeast Asian students and provides opportunities for students to study in Taiwan while having vocational internships as an essential part of the degree program.

Drawing on interviews with Southeast Asian students studying in Taiwan and faculty members of Taiwanese universities, this research first gives accounts to the main factors that facilitate this unique practice: the neoliberal transformation of higher education and the labour market in Taiwan and kinship and social networks in students’ choice of studying in Taiwan. The economic ties between Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, including the business investments, Taiwan’s reliance on contracted labour migration from certain Southeast Asian countries, and businesses in Taiwan that rely largely on the migrant workers to provide affordable labour, which have laid grounds for the practices and popularity of the student-worker scheme. Further, the aim of this research is to make an innovative inquiry on the ‘double commodification’ of the student-worker scheme in Taiwan, students are treated as commodities on both the higher education and the labour markets. The author argues that the IPIAC is the convergence of student mobility and contracted labour migration, and it responds to both the high demands of the fee-paying students the cheap labour forces through the process of double- commodification of students in an unseen manner, which corresponds to the growing of trend of seeing students as more affordable and flexible labour.


Yu-chin Tseng was appointed Junior Professor at University of Tübingen in 2018, and since then she has been serving as co-director of the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan (ERCCT). She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Essex in 2015. Her research interests lie in the area of gender, mobility, and intimacy in the context of Asia and Europe. Her current research comprises three main streams: the health behaviours and wellbeing of international students in Taiwan and in Germany; intimate mobilities and their correlation with states in Asia; China’s digital public diplomacy and its outreach to overseas Chinese in Europe. She has published widely on the topics of marriage migrants, gender and family, and China’s public diplomacy. Her latest publication, ‘China’s Twitter Diplomacy in Germany: Practices, Reactions, and Discrepancies’, was published in Journal of Contemporary China in 2023.

This event is co-organised with IN-EAST and a partial funding of the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research Germany)-Funded project "Qualification and Skill in the Migration Process of Foreign Workers in Asia".

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