Materialities and Mobilities in Education Abstract

Higher education mobilities: a cross-national European comparison

Within the extant literature on patterns of mobility of higher education students to and from Europe there is some recognition that these differ across geographical space – in relation to variations in national uptake of the European Union’s Erasmus scheme, for example. However, strong similarities are also often identified – about the way in which mobility is desired by students, higher education institutions and national governments, and how this is stimulated, in part, by various European initiatives such as the commitment to forging a European Higher Education Area. Moreover, while scholars have critiqued normative expectations of mobility – pointing out, for example, that not all students have the necessary social, cultural and economic resources to support a period of study abroad – there has been less critical focus on the way in which constructions of the ‘mobile student’ vary spatially. This paper draws on a dataset of 92 policy documents from six European nations to argue that, while some convergence is notable, particularly in relation to the ways in which student mobility is placed centre-stage within internationalisation strategies, key differences are also evident – with respect to: the scale of desired mobility; the characteristics of the imagined ‘mobile subject’; the extent to which social justice concerns are brought into play; and the prioritisation given to outward mobility. These raise important questions about the degree of ‘policy convergence’ across Europe and the ostensible homogenisation of European higher education systems around an Anglo-American model.