Talk at Forum for Africa Studies, Feb 2, 2018

Friday Seminar in African Studies: “I am so so very not sure”

Join the Friday Seminar in African Studies and listen to Dr. Kajsa Hallberg Adu‘s research on University Students’ Migration Aspirations in Ghana, Friday 2/2 10.15-11.30, ENG3-2028.


Going to ASA 2015: Rethinking Decolonialization with Student Migration Aspirations

ASA-Slide 2I will be presenting an aspect of my work at the African Studies Association’s yearly meeting in the US, this year in San Diego 19-22 Nov, 2015.

My panel is called Rethinking Decolonilaization and my paper will be on the topic of “Decolonizing Migration Studies using Narratives of University Students in Ghana”.

I am looking forward to attending this famous conference and hopefully making connections for future research!

Find the full program here (PDF).

Final Abstract

IMG_0259This study examines migration aspirations among university students in Ghana. My interest

is in undergraduate students, a group that is largely overlooked both in African studies and

migration theory. The research was focused on migration aspirations, the first stage of any

migration venture, and carried out at University of Ghana, a large public university, and

Ashesi University College, a small private liberal arts college. A combination of methods

was employed: focus groups, an e-survey (n=506), and interviews.

To understand how students view the option to migrate, I argue that an Africanist or decolonial approach must

be used. This can be achieved by letting Ghanaian students themselves explain the

phenomenon as well as by contextualizing Ghanaian university students’ migration

narratives, and not leaving out a critical view of knowledge production in the world.

The findings show that students in the Global South indeed consider migration as a life

option, however, migration aspirations are volatile, often include the aspiration for return,

and are driven by the ambition for further study, rather than being an end in itself. While

other researchers have described a “migration culture” in Ghana, my findings rather point

toward an “education culture”. However, financing such migration as well as the passport

acquisition process, present barriers such that although many students say they aspire to

migrate, most of them have not taken action like applying for a passport. This confirms

research findings that there is a gap between aspiration and ability to migrate. In addition,

my research reveals other reservations to the migration option, like fear of racism and

religious/moral concerns. Further, the students in my study suggest that lower-educated

individuals have a stronger aspiration to migrate than highly educated individuals like

themselves – I construe this as form of “othering”, not previously found in the literature.

Men and women are as likely to aspire to migrate with the exception of women with weak

academic results who are more likely to aspire to migrate. Further, the research established

that university students in Ghana use new communication tools powered by the Internet to

stay in close contact with family and friends abroad. Students also discuss migration in

relation to “exploring”and “enjoying” as well as describe travel similar to the “gap year”

earlier described in the literature, but for students in the Global North.

These results highlight that students in the Global South are generally similar to the

students in the Global North in terms of migration aspirations. However, while the latter

are well covered in the International Student Migration (ISM) discourse the former are not

– and this is the discourse my study contributes to. While individual considerations among

Ghanaian students are similar to those of students in the Global North, I argue that the

migration environment is dissimilar, and to better understand the phenomenon of student

migration originating from the Global South, a more holistic approach is needed, inclusive

of historical, social, and political contexts.

Progress Report Week 5&6/25

photoPages written: 12

Percentage work done compared to plan: 50%, I never really finished my revising ch 1&2 before going into the statistical analysis and now that is hanging over me…

Unforeseen problems: Sickness in the family! Hospital and all. Well, we are now fine.

Unforeseen joy: Finding a research partner in my statistics research assistant. We speak the same language and are extremely productive together.

Next week I plan to achieve the following: Finish a first draft on quantitative results and share it with my research assistant for proofing. Also finish Ch 1 & 2 (good enough is good enough!) and send off to supervisors (so that the last weeks of February can be devoted to analysis and prepping for the seminar I am to give on Thu 5 March!)

Progress Report Week 4/25

photoPages written: 7 (now 104)

Percentage work done compared to plan: “Email supervisors Ch1& 2,(NOT DONE) meet with stats help (YEP, LOOKS PROMISING), let someone review my interview guide (WAITING FOR FEEDBACK).”

Unforeseen joy: Finding an article that is very relevant to my work.

Unforeseen problems: Finding an article that is very relevant to my work.

Next week I plan to achieve the following: Finish revising ch 1&2 and getting some work done (half?) on statistical analysis.

Presentation at RIPS, University of Ghana

An overview of the research project was presented at RIPS on Wed 5th November, 2014. Here is the abstract for the presentation.\\

Abstract for RIPS Seminar Nov 5th, 2014, 2 pm

On A Course to Migrate?  Student Migration Aspirations among University Students in Ghana

by Kajsa Hallberg Adu, PhD Candidate, Institute of African Studies, UG

Academic mobility and migration is a topic receiving growing scholarly attention from a variety of fields: population geography, migration studies and higher education studies, however students from the Global South are rarely the objects of analysis. To address this lacuna, my dissertation research is a case study centered on students enrolled in higher education in Ghana and their migration aspirations. Although highly tangible in the Ghanaian society, the scope of Ghanaian student migration is not currently known, including its numbers, financing, destinations and underlying reasons. I argue there is a need to describe, analyze and theorize this particular phenomenon. For my dissertation research I employ the mixed method of focus groups (n=30), e-survey (n=500) and interviews.

Specifically, I want to highlight and discuss three contested areas in the literature. First, is migration out of the Global South is driven predominantly by economic considerations or cultural influences, further education and other considerations like the quest for “exposure” and self-realization? In the international student migration discourse (ISM) drivers of student migration for students in Europe are not predominantly financial in nature, but reasons for studies outside one’s own country rather include cultural influences, language learning and “adventure” (Alberts & Hazen, 2005; Carlson, 2011; Findlay et al., 2010; Murphy-Lejeune, 2007) In the local discourse, the capital needed to migrate suggests it is not a career path for the poor { Awumbila 2011}. Also, the pursuit of graduate and post-graduate training has been cited among for instance Ghanaian medical doctors as a reason for migration aspiration (Anarfi, Quartey, & Adjei, 2006; Dovlo & Nyonator, 1999).  Notably, Francis Nii-Amoo Dodoo (1997) in his analysis of census data for the US questions the returns of such investments for male African degree holders.  Second, what is a student from the Global South? A young, inexperienced free-rider or rather a valuable, talented, fee-payer? Students of today often finance their own migration, hence the value of students as fee payers and future highly-skilled workers in so-called knowledge societies is being recognized and more resources are put into recruiting students from the Global South, often directly on campuses in the Global South. Third, there are historical, colonial paths of student migration from the Global South to the Global North that often are assumed to be stagnant or even waning. However, the “decolonization of the mind” might be a slow process as has been suggested by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1994).

On this note, I hypothesize that student aspirations in the Global South are similar to elsewhere, but also formed by historically and contemporary construed information irregularities concerning opportunities.


Kajsa Hallberg Adu is a lecturer at Ashesi University College and a PhD-candidate at the University of Ghana. Since 2009, she has been teaching political science, leadership, and academic writing. Her dissertation explores student voices on migration aspirations and has the working title “On a Course to Migrate? Migration Aspirations among University Students in Ghana”.

Kajsa’s research interests include higher education in Africa, youth, migration, decolonial theory, pedagogics, and social media. Kajsa is the co-founder of BloggingGhana, an organization for social media influencers in Ghana. She is herself a successful blogger on She holds a Masters in Political Science from Uppsala University, Sweden