While many features of higher education systems are bounded by the jurisdictional limits of the nation-state, it is clear that contemporary globalization is dramatically heightening the effects of cross-border flows on institutions, scholars, students and governments everywhere. This chapter examines the politics of the provision of higher education across borders, by a university based in one country to a student from another, involving the international mobility of students, institutions, programmes or faculty. This chapter begins by considering the historical roots of cross-border provision in colonial domination and Cold War imperialism, which continue to shape the pattern of engagement and the politics of international education many generations later. Since the end of the Cold War, political dynamics between education-exporting and -importing states have been transformed by massification, marketization and the rise of English as a global language. The chapter explores the ways in which patterns of contemporary cross-border educational flows reflect the political settlements reached between powerful actors in both sending and receiving countries. It concludes by arguing that we need to take seriously the interests of states themselves in the international arena, but also to look beyond the espoused national interests to understand in each case how these reflect the power of various government agencies, universities, political and economic elites and national student movements.