Dissertation Abstracts

Europe on the Move: A Study of Intra-European Student Exchanges in Higher Education

Author: Van Mol, Christof , Christof.VanMol@uantwerpen.be
Department: Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies
University: Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium
Supervisor: Christiane Timmerman
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Student Mobility , Erasmus , Migration , Mobility
Areas of Research: Migration , Youth , Comparative Sociology


International student mobility increased significantly in recent decades. Degree mobility - students pursuing a complete degree abroad, also called 'diploma mobility' - forms the majority of student migrants globally. Nevertheless, in Europe, credit mobility - students going abroad for a limited period of time in the context of an exchange programme - is more common, which is principally the result of the institutionalisation of the Erasmus programme. Between 1987 and 2011, 2.3 million students moved internationally within the framework of this programme. Despite the increasing visibility and growth in the numbers of participating students, however, organised intra-European student mobility remains understudied. The purpose of this dissertation is to broaden our understanding of this specific form of international student migration by adopting a firmly empirically grounded international comparative approach.

I use a mixed-method approach that combines quantitative and qualitative methodologies. The quantitative part is based on an online questionnaire, conducted in 2011 at 18 European universities in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom (n = 5,676). The qualitative part is based on in-depth interviews and focus groups with mobile as well as non-mobile students at the universities of Antwerp (Belgium), Innsbruck (Austria), Oslo (Norway), Oxford (United Kingdom), Rome (Italy) and Warsaw (Poland). This qualitative fieldwork phase comprises 71 respondents. Moreover, instead of considering students as rational decision-makers, this project was initiated from the perspective of students’ agency being simultaneously constrained and enabled by surrounding contexts, including these in the analysis.

This dissertation is innovative in combining systematically quantitative and qualitative data, as well as adopting an international comparative approach, leading to a better understanding of the processes that are associated with organised intra-European student mobility. "Europe on the Move" addresses four main research questions that have not been systematically analysed in the academic literature: (1) who goes (and does not go) abroad?; (2) how do students reconstruct their social network abroad?; (3) does intra-European student mobility enhance a feeling of European identity?; and (4) does participating in European exchange programmes influences future migration behaviour?.

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