The push-pull factor model and its implications for the retention of international students in the host country

Shahrokh Nikou*, Monika Luukkonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Due to high demand for international talents and skilful workforces, many countries around the world, especially the ageing populations are now looking for new ways and strategies to attract more international talent. Drawing on push-pull factor theory, integrated with theory of reasoned action (TRA), this research examines international students' intention to stay or to leave the host country after completion of the students' studies. Design/methodology/approach: A conceptual model has been proposed and evaluated aimed at understanding the factors that influence the decision-making of international students studying in Finland. Data were collected from a sample of 292 international students in Finland and structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to analyse the data and examine the relationships between various constructs in the model. Findings: The SEM results show that several factors influence students' decision to stay or leave the host country after graduation. Aspects related to host country, institutional and economic factors and social influence (norms) directly impact students' attitude towards staying. In addition, attitude towards staying not only has a direct impact on the intention to stay, but also mediates the relationship between different pulling factors and students' intention to stay in the host country. Moreover, challenges and barriers (such as local language, challenge of finding employment and challenge of assimilating into the community or making friends) have a negative impact on the decision to stay in the host country. Originality/value: This study uses push-pull theory in the Finnish context, contributing to the growing body of literature on international education policies and practices. The findings highlight the need for a more holistic approach to supporting international students, one that considers the students' unique needs and experiences in the host country and provides the students with the necessary resources and support to succeed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-94
Number of pages19
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Host country
  • International students
  • Push-pull factor model
  • Student migration
  • Student mobility


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