This paper examines contested meanings of international student mobility in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The study tries to understand why policy makers and university managers find it difficult to diversify student bodies in these jurisdictions. In particular, problems with the conceptualisation of international student mobility are discussed. In practical terms, the paper delineates key boosters and barriers for inbound flows which received little attention in the previous literature that primarily focused on the outbound mobility. Finally, the researchers discuss important policy leverages that could enhance the value of engagement of international students in transcultural learning. Copyright © 2019 James Nicholas Publishers.