The Nexus of Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, and National Security: A Comparative Study of International Education in the U.S. and Canada


  • Roopa Trilokekar York University
  • Hani El Masry University of Waterloo



international education, national security, public diplomacy, soft power, new geopolitics


This paper examines how international education (IE), as an important tool of public diplomacy (PD) and soft power (SP), faces unique challenges as issues of national security (NS) become more prominent in this era of new geopolitics. It presents a model to understand the relationship between PD, SP and NS and then applies this model to a comparative study. The contrasting histories, approaches and perspectives of IE as it operates as a component of foreign policy and at the nexus of PD, SP and NS in both the U.S. and Canada are analysed. The paper concludes with three challenges faced by IE in the contemporary context: first, the diminishing role of the university as a distinct and valued non-state actor; second, the weakening of foreign policy as an outward looking, distinctly international investment; and third, the problem with choosing isolation over engagement as a strategy.



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Author Biographies

Roopa Trilokekar, York University

Roopa Desai-Trilokekar, Ed.D, is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at York University, Canada. Her research focuses on government policy on international education, its links/impact on higher education and the international student experience. A scholar on Canadian international education, she does comparative research on U.S., India Australia and Germany. As a Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California (2020-2021), she completed a project titled, International Education as Soft Power: Its relevance in a world of changing U.S.- Canada relations and new geopolitics.

Hani El Masry, University of Waterloo

Hani El Masry is a PhD student in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, University of Waterloo, Canada. His research interests include diplomacy of middle powers and small states, the evolution of diplomatic practice, and the role of soft power, public diplomacy, and cultural diplomacy in the development of foreign policy. He holds an MA in Global Diplomacy from SOAS University of London, and has over ten years of experience in international education partnerships, and programs.



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How to Cite

Trilokekar, R., & El Masry, H. (2022). The Nexus of Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, and National Security: A Comparative Study of International Education in the U.S. and Canada. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 14(5), 111–133.



Winter 2022 Special Issue