Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Issues of external and internal labor migration in post-Soviet Central Asia

Uzbek Student Migration to EU Countries. A Case Study of Students in the UK and in France

Farkhad Alimukhamedov (Paris, France)



Up to now Uzbek (1) migration to EU countries is not yet represented by large numbers. However, what makes it noteworthy is the high percentage of students in this migration wave. Uzbek migrants are usually divided into three main categories: labor migration, mainly focused in Russia and Kazakhstan, student migration, ranging from Canada to New Zealand, and illegal migration (mainly human trafficking), more developed in Turkey, Greece and the United Arab Emirates. My purpose is to show the inconsistencies of this categorization and the similarities among the individuals artificially placed in different groups. This hypothesis will be tested through a case study of the Uzbek students in the UK and in France. These countries rank among the leaders with a long historical tradition in receiving international students.

My point is that the migration of Uzbek students represents simultaneously academic and labor migration. Their home conditions encourage the students to work more than to study. In two nearby countries, however, we find different approaches to studying, working and planning for their homeland.  

The "pioneers" in the UK and in France are scholars of the "Umid" presidential foundation who have pursued degree studies for at least one year. Upon their return they not only received academic priorities, but they also achieved a higher social level in terms of the material goods they were given (housing, car or wedding). Their example was followed by the students who had more socio-economic than academic priorities. In the case of the UK, potential candidates for migration chose language studies rather than degree studies. The case of students in France is quite different: French is not as attractive in Uzbekistan, and the number of students wishing to study in France remains low in comparison to the UK.  

The ways of departing for the two countries became completely different because of the much higher demand for studying in the UK. The creation of agencies and some other networks (2) facilitated and increased the number of Uzbek students leaving for the UK. Once they finish their studies, students are encouraged to return home, but they prefer to remain in the UK by subscribing to other language or computer courses. The French embassy does not provide visas for language studies. However, a knowledge of French and the approval of the hosting university in France make it possible to obtain a long-term visa.  

The great difference in numbers is not only a question of language, but also especially of the possibilities for work, which is essential for most of the students. Today in both countries the number of grant-holders is much lower than that of self-financed students. Here, the question we raise is whether these students are committed to study or to work. According to the results of a questionnaire, students in the UK enrolled in work for more than the twenty hours legally permitted (3) . We find the same figures in France, but the work possibilities are much fewer, making it difficult to enroll in jobs. This is due not only to the situation in the hosting countries, but also to the community and lack of a network. It is noteworthy that the number of unemployed Uzbeks is extremely low in the UK, and in many cases they do not go through job centers. Strong ties provide newly arrived students easily and rapidly with jobs. The French case implies a more "individualistic", "solitary" lifestyle, which causes newly arrived students to face extreme difficulties in finding the first job and housing.  

Job sectors are quite homogeneous, and gender influences job type. Male students are enrolled mainly in catering in the UK and in hotels in France; female students serve in restaurants or do babysitting in both countries.  

The future of these students is difficult to predict. The fact is that the flow of highly educated students from Uzbekistan to other countries will continue at increasing rates. If students in France already plan a long-term stay abroad to achieve their professional goals, Uzbeks in the UK still wish to return to their homeland and start new business with the capital they have accumulated. But for them, too, the return is becoming a "myth" (4) .

1 The term Uzbek is used to mean individuals holding Uzbek citizenship

2 In the case of the UK, Language Schools became interested in attracting foreign students after the EU accepted 10 new countries. Before May 2004, students coming from Eastern European countries represented the majority of foreign students pursuing English Language Studies.


4 Abdulmalek Sayad: the migrant intends to return to his home country, but he/she never returns.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-05