Why are some students more internationally mobile than others?

The EUROSTUDENT policy-makers conference brought participants together to get a sneak preview of the EUROSTUDENT VI data and discuss the relevance and implications to their national contexts in three different workshops. The blog will feature short summaries of each of these in the upcoming weeks, starting with the workshop on cross-national student mobility. In the cross-national student mobility workshop, participants gained insights into the preliminary EUROSTUDENT VI data on temporary student mobility and shared their views on possible obstacles to student mobility as well as possible solutions in individual countries. The discussions focused mainly on funding-related aspects, as well as on the mobility of teacher training and education students.

7_Study or not study abroad_Lina Itagaki
Impressions on the obstacles of student mobility. A drawing by Lina Itagaki made at the EUROSTUDENT Researchers’ Forum.

The additional financial burden associated with studying abroad has consistently been identified as one of the largest obstacles preventing students from pursuing studies abroad in past and present EUROSTUDENT rounds. The lack of portability of national public support to other countries can create an obstacle to student mobility, making it difficult for some students to access mobility schemes. For example, in the Netherlands, national student support is fully portable to foreign countries when studying abroad while at the same time in Lithuania and Georgia this is not the case – here support can only be transferred within the country.

In addition, tuition fees charged abroad may deter or prevent students from pursuing (parts of) their studies in a foreign country, especially if the country of origin charges none or lower fees. To tackle the issue of (higher) tuition fees abroad, in Iceland for example students can receive a partial tuition waiver for student loans taken out to pay fees abroad in the Netherlands, the state provides support for tuition fees abroad which is up to five times as high as support for studying in the Netherlands. At the same time in Germany, bilateral agreements between HEIs can result in students not having to pay tuition fees, even for very prestigious institutions abroad. If no such agreements exist, it is up to students themselves to provide sufficient funding.

The sources of funding available to and used by students in the different EUROSTUDENT countries vary greatly: in some countries, families and partners provide the largest share of funding, whereas in others, students indicated regular study grants from their home country to be the main source of funding. In some countries, EU grants play a major role in funding student mobility, but participants identified the risk that a possible future lack of European funding can have strong negative effects on mobility rates in these countries.

Another interesting aspect that EUROSTUDENT data shows is that in most countries, teacher training and education students are enrolled abroad less frequently compared to their peers. The data patterns indicate that in many countries, students of teacher training and education more often tend to be first-generation students, are more likely to be female, and are more likely to have children. Obstacles to temporary mobility were perceived more strongly by these students. It was discussed at the workshop that the bias in mobility rates in teacher training and education in some countries may be caused by different national contexts and regulations. For example, in some countries, teacher training is provided by higher education institutions, while in others it is offered outside the higher education system. In some countries there are special regulations by the government which prevent students of teacher training and education from applying to mobility programmes while in other countries the mobility of students of teacher training is regarded as a key factor to increase the mobility of future students as teachers may function as multipliers and role models.

In summary, participants of the workshop highlighted that contextual data is important to gain an adequate understanding of international student mobility in order to explain national peculiarities. Providing context data for the interpretation of EUROSTUDENT data is regarded a task for the individual countries.

In general, EUROSTUDENT data was identified as one out of several sources for developing evidence-based policy. As data often show patterns for certain groups of countries, participants recommended that it should be examined whether it is possible to elaborate policy recommendations based on clusters of countries. Although the EUROSTUDENT data show often heterogeneity across countries, there are also certain commonalities (e.g. with respect to mobility behaviour, funding problems, etc.) suggesting that cross-national comparison is insightful and international cooperation may help to learn about problems and possible solutions.

The EUROSTUDENT VI Synopsis of Indicators, to be published in spring of 2018, will provide data for 28 EHEA countries on the matters mentioned above, as well as several other indicators related to student mobility. For an overview of findings from EUROSTUDENT V (2012-2015), see the most recent Synopsis of Indicators. In the past, EUROSTUDENT Intelligence Briefs have also examined the issue of  student mobility in teacher training education, mobility obstacles,  as well as the international mobility of students from Newly Independent States. You can also read the overview of current research and discussions on student mobility that were presented at the EUROSTUDENT Researchers’ Forum in February 2017.

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