ERF presentations: Understanding internationally mobile students

As mentioned in this blog before, we had a very interesting EUROSTUDENT Researchers’ Forum in Vilnius at the beginning of February this year. The Forum was dedicated to sharing knowledge and experiences of the different national research teams participating in EUROSTUDENT VI and we had parallel sessions for presentations and discussions  on different interesting topics. For the next upcoming weeks we are going to post here summaries from these sessions so you can get to know the topics and issues our national research teams are working on and maybe – why not – contact them or look up their work if you have similar research interests based on EUROSTUDENT data.

First we start with an overview of the session “Understanding Internationally Mobile Students” that brought together researchers to discuss different aspects and questions related to mobile students, focusing on both short- and long-term mobility, as well as the obstacles that may prevent or hinder mobility.

Anu Lainio and Jessie Abrahams, University of Surrey, UK, provided an overview of the ERC-funded EuroStudents project (project leader Rachel Brooks).  The project aims to develop a new conceptual framework for the construction of higher education students by investigating the understanding of “who a student is” in Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland and Spain. Such a framework could also be helpful in investigating and understanding mobile students.

Erica Finnerman and Frederik Lindström from the Swedish Council for higher education presented on “International mobility in the Swedish admission system”. In 2016, grade conversion methods and scales for the admittance of non-domestic applicants to Swedish higher education were revised in order to make grades more comparable internationally.

Yassin Boughaba from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office took a closer look at difficulties incoming students may face in Switzerland in his presentation on “International students in Switzerland: resources and hardships”. 80% of long-term or degree-mobile students who are studying an entire programme in Switzerland come from Europe, of which more than half are from bordering countries. Although many of these international students have a privileged socio-economic background and are enrolled in the most renowned Swiss higher education institutions, they encounter financial and housing difficulties in Switzerland and possess fewer resources for their living compared to students of Swiss nationality.

Katarina Aškerc Veniger from the Centre of the Republic of Slovenia for Mobility and European Educational Training Programmes presented additional questionnaire items that the Slovenian national research team included in the questionnaire. Their focus was to investigate mobility flows, sources of finance as well as students’ perceptions on their employability. Moreover, the topic of internationalisation at home as a way to internationalise Slovenian higher education institutions besides mobility programmes was brought up. Internationalisation at home could, in addition to content related and academic support, include the instalment of programmes and support structures that enable students to develop intercultural and linguistic competences.

Several presentations focused on the potential obstacles to mobility students may face when planning to study abroad. It became apparent that several EUROSTUDENT countries share common obstacles to mobility, namely the additional financial burden that students face, (perceived) insufficient languages skills, lack of provision of information on mobility programmes by higher education institutions, and feared separation from family and friends. Further structural obstacles like visa regulations were also mentioned.

8_Study or not abroad_Lina Itagaki
Impressions on the obstacles of student mobility. A drawing by Lina Itagaki made at the EUROSTUDENT Researchers’ Forum.

Gabriela Jitaru, Sorin Mitulescu and Andreea Gheba from the National Research Council of Romania presented on “International student mobility in Romania- structural and individual challenges”. From their analysis of obstacles to mobility, financial barriers emerged as one of the main hindering factors, as well as the existence of parental support or having children.

Kseniya Kizilova from the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine provided insights to overall international mobility patterns of Ukrainian students. Main obstacles to mobility in the Ukraine are a lack of information on mobility schemes by the higher education institutions, the additional financial burden of becoming mobile and (perceived) insufficient language skills. In addition to all these obstacles common to many EUROSTUDENT countries, it can be problematic to obtain a visa in order to participate in higher education programmes abroad.

Angelika Grabher and Iris Schwarzenbacher from the Institute for Advanced Studies, Austria, presented on “Structural obstacles to student mobility in Austria”. Taking into account structural factors as obstacles to mobility, the logistic regression analysis presented found that the specific field of study has the highest explanatory value for (not) planning an enrolment phase abroad, so that further research should also take the specific “culture” of faculties or fields into account. Additional factors hindering student mobility in Austria are an advanced age, facing financial difficulties, low parental education background, working more than 20 hours a week, as well as living with parents.

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