This paper highlights the complexities surrounding the social practices involved in being an international higher degree student, and the ways in which these practices contribute to the formation of student identity. It reports research in progress aimed at understanding how higher degree students experience studying for a degree delivered,'offshore' by an Australian university. In particular, it presents findings of two interpretive case studies, one of a masters degree course delivered in Singapore and another of a doctoral dissertation programme delivered in Hong Kong. The line of inquiry concerns questions about the perspectives of the students: how they understand the dynamics of their particular educational context and their sense of themselves as students in relation to the communities to which they belong. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.