Invisible students: Experiences and barriers of female international doctoral students who are mothers with dependent children in New Zealand

Year: 2019

Author: Zhang, Zeyun, Valerie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Increasing numbers of international students are attracted to study at the doctoral level in New Zealand because of changes in New Zealand’s international education policies in 2006 that domestic tuition fee rates for doctoral study apply to all international students. According to the latest Enrolments Database provided by Ministry of Education (2017), 46% of international doctoral students are women, but little is understood about these students’ experiences, particularly those who are also mothers with dependent children. This presentation highlights my current doctoral research project which focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of the experiences, challenges, and needs of this demographic, using intersectionality as the methodology. Intersectionality is particularly useful in revealing invisible social injustice, by exploring the interconnectedness of social and cultural characteristics, such as class, race, ethnicity, dis/ability, gender, sexual preference, language, nationality, and age (Lykke, 2010). Data were collected by semi-structured interview.

I will highlight the research gaps, and explain how intersectionality helps to draw out the multiple challenges faced by full-time international doctoral students who are also mothers with family duties. I will also present the initial findings from interviews. It is hoped that the findings will help the institutions and New Zealand higher education system finds better ways of supporting this cohort’s needs.


Lykke, N (2010)Feminist Studies, A Guide to Intersecional Theory, Methodology and Writing, New York: Routledge.

Ministry of Education (2017), Provider based Enrolments,from,accessed 7th Jan, 2018.