Social dynamics of student mobility in the European Union
The purpose of the Thesis is to contribute to our theoretical and empirical understanding of the social dynamics of student mobility and higher education internationalisation in the European Union. Specifically, it examines the social factors influencing students from different EU countries in their choice i) to study in a country other than their own, and ii) select the UK as the place to study abroad. The Thesis approaches student mobility as a social choice and action effecting in the structuration of the European educational space, and the growing rapprochement and closer interaction among European higher education systems, actors, and societies, that is European social integration. The Thesis argues that student mobility and the structuration of the European educational space is a social process relating to systemic factors but also the actions of collective and individual actors, involved in hierarchical games, aimed at increasing some type of capital (economic, political, social, cultural). In a context of mass higher education systems and growing internationalisation of economies, societies, and labour markets new educational hierarchies emerge influencing student educational choices to study abroad. Foreign language competences, international experiences, and cultural communication and knowledge appear to constitute additional skills and qualifications students perceive important educational credentials in their struggle for successful entry into, and development within, labour markets, the hierarchies of occupations, and social hierarchies. Moreover, the Thesis argues that student choice to study abroad in the EU can be best interpreted as an interaction of the effects of globalisation and European integration processes with national social contexts, and between country-systems relationships within which educational choices are made. The factors specific to European national and regional social contexts identified include: i) the position of national higher education systems (and institutions) in the international hierarchy of systems, ii) the stage of development and expansion of national higher education systems, iii) the diversity of higher education systems, institutions, structures, and traditions across EU countries, iv) the functioning of higher education systems and institutions. Such hierarchical stratification and diversity of European higher education systems appear to also contain the social dynamics of student mobility, higher education internationalisation, the structuration of the European educational space, and European social integration.