Introduction: the intellectual migration analytics

Wei Li, Lucia Lo, Yixi Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The term ‘intellectual migration’ initially referred to the exodus of European scientists and other professionals to the U.S. in the first half of the twentieth century. Academic and policy debates around issues of ‘brain drain’, ‘brain gain’, and ‘brain circulation’ in recent decades have intensified the usage of this term. A 2015 paper first attempted conceptualising Intellectual Migration as an analytical framework that encompasses a migration spectrum where students to professionals at different life stages move for intellectual pursuits that can advance career development. Li et al. (2021) articulate the framework by elaborating on the underlying key concepts–intellectual capital, intellectual nodes, intellectual gateways, intellectual peripheries–and the role they play in one’s spatial and social mobilities, and connecting internal migration with international migration. This special issue assembles empirical research that addresses issues like the (un)certainty of engaging in intellectual migration, agency-structure dynamics behind migration decisions, and the value of intellectual capital in the migration process. This introductory piece traces the evolution of the intellectual migration conceptualisation while synthesising the findings to affirm the usefulness of the framework in analysing higher-education and highly-skilled migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4577-4597
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number18
StatePublished - 2023


  • intellectual capital
  • intellectual gateway
  • Intellectual migration
  • intellectual node
  • intellectual periphery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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