Jimmy Stef

PhD in sociology and post-doctoral fellow at the Université Côte d’Azur. Associate member of URMIS. His research focuses on the dynamics of the internationalisation of higher education and the making of elites, particularly in South East Asia. He also leads European projects on citizenship and peace education.

He defended his thesis fully funded by the CNRS in December 2022:

The Challenges of Internationalization of Higher Education in Southeast Asia : Singapore and Malaysia as New Global Centres of Elite Making ?

Supervisors:  Catherine Blaya (PR) and Valérie Erlich (MCF).

This research aims to analyse the impact of internationalization dynamics on higher education systems in Southeast Asia over the past fifty years, with a focus on Singapore and Malaysia. Using a socio-historical and elite theory approach, it analyses the social, economic and political processes that have led to the reconfiguration of the structuring of higher education in these two countries and to the renewal of the ways in which their elites are made. It also invites us to take part in the discussions on the evaluation and ranking systems that are helping to set up a competitive higher education market in the world. Using a reading framework that multiplies the levels of analysis and based on a field survey that relies on a mixed methods design combining qualitative materials (documentary archives, interviews with institutional actors, corpus of political speeches, participant observations of international events) and quantitative materials (secondary analyses of statistical data on student mobility flows, quantitative survey of international students), the thesis analyses the internationalisation of the Singaporean and Malaysian education systems according to two dynamics an inward-oriented higher education internationalization which involves the importation of foreign knowledge, cultures, models and standards of higher education to enhance national identity and an outward-oriented internationalization aimed at attracting the most academically accomplished international students and occupying a major place in the global education market to enhance the country’s international image. The universality of internationalization is challenged in the thesis by the national specificities and institutional polymorphism of university and higher education organisations. The greater complexity of the meaning of student movements questions the transfer of knowledge in the world in favour of a multidimensional reconfiguration interweaving multiple logics (economic, religious, ethnic, social, etc.) going beyond the homologies established until then. The impact of the internationalization of education on the internal stratification of higher education in Singapore and Malaysia then shows the segmentation of the public between public and private universities giving rise to a distinction between public and private elites. Finally, the research raises the question of the positioning of the two higher education systems in the international education market. The state elites of these two countries have committed themselves to a policy of attractiveness of their training to let them access the new status of world centres of higher education. However, the strategic interests and national positions of the two States diverge in terms of public policies, standards, regulations and legislation, leading to the consideration of two differentiated models of internationalization that condition the incoming student flows in these countries: Singaporean higher education appears to be a model of excellence at the crossroads of the Western and Eastern ‘worlds’ that captures not only talented and wealthy Asian elites, but also international elites; Malaysian higher education represents a hybrid international model that helps to bring out ethnic-racial and Muslim elites.

Research areas:

  • Malaysia, Singapore, ASEAN
  • France, Europe


  • Erlich, & Stef, J. (2023). Les mobilités internationales des étudiants français : quelles évolutions ?, Chapitre 16 in Feres, B. & Rey, O. Être étudiant avant et pendant la pandémie (pp. 259-272). La Documentation française.
  • Erlich, & Stef, J. (2022). L’internationalisation de l’enseignement supérieur à Singapour. Un modèle élitiste à la croisée des « mondes » ?. Lien social et Politiques, 89, 107-129. doi.org/10.7202/1094550ar
  • Stef, J. & Samuel, J. (2022). Internationalisation de l’enseignement supérieur et intégration régionale en Asie du Sud-Est : Mundus sans Erasmus. In Cabasset, C. & Samuel, J. L’Asie du Sud-Est 2022 : bilan, enjeux et perspectives. Institut de recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est contemporaine. doi.org/10.4000/books.irasec.4670
  • Bergamaschi, A., Blaya, , Arcidiacono, F. & Stef, J. (2022). Blatant and subtle prejudice, and the role of teachers in conveying tolerance and respect for the Other. Intercultural Education, 33(1), 17-34. doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2021.2017643
  • Bergamaschi, , Blaya, C., Stef, J. & Arcidiacono, F. (2021). La prévention des préjugés flagrants et voilés perçue par les élèves: lorsque les enseignant·e·s ont leur mot à dire. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Bildungswissenschaften, 43(2), 297-310. doi.org/10.24452/SJER.43.2.9
  • Stef, J. (2019). Comment les grandes écoles françaises se sont-elles adaptées au processus d’internationalisation des élites : De l’analyse des discours des acteurs institutionnels à l’émergence de stratégies proactivesJournal of international Mobility, 7(1), 107-135. doi:10.3917/jim.007.0107.

Distinction for research work:

Special mention obtained in 2017 at the 27th Competition of the National Observatory of Student Life (OVE) for the Master research paper titled: Internationalization of the French Grandes Ecoles and Making of the Elite. Institution Strategies and Student Mobility. Supervisor: Valérie Erlich (MCF).