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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

International student mobility: drivers, patterns and impacts

Alternative title: Internasjonal studentmobilitet: bakgrunn, mønstre og konsekvenser

Awarded: NOK 11.8 mill.

Internationalisation and international student mobility (ISM) have been high on the education policy agenda in Norway. Quality, but also relevance, are used as justifications for facilitating ISM. In the MOBILITY project, we have looked at the prerequisites for, and effects of, ISM with emphasis on whether practices and effects are in line with the political objectives for ISM. The project has drawn on document analyses, questionnaire surveys, registry data and qualitative interviews. The document analyses show that Norwegian policy for ISM has stood out from the policy in most Western countries by placing great emphasis on academic and cultural justifications. With the introduction of tuition fees for students from outside the EU area, economic justifications have gained a more prominent place in Norwegian politics. ISM has gone from being based on capacity needs to being presented as a tool for raising the quality of Norwegian higher education (HE), and from being a measure to support society's needs to being framed as a measure that will meet the needs of HE institutions. The benefits to society have been toned down, even though the Norwegian depends on graduates educated abroad – for example, half of Norwegian doctors are trained abroad. We have studied factors contributing to the growth in the number of international students in Norway in the 2000s, through policy analyses and questionnaire data. Policy on internationalization and ISM, including the development of English language programmes, and the fact that HE has been free of charges are the main explanations. Students often express pragmatic considerations, rather than perceptions of quality, as reasons for choosing Norway, but the quality is rated as good by those who do come. A high level of satisfaction is related to the fact that mobile students constitute a selected group in terms of motivation. Also Norwegian students abroad are satisfied with their stay. We have compared survey data of Norwegian students abroad and students in Norway, finding that students abroad generally have a more positive assessment of their HE programme, students in North America and the British Isles in particular. Students in Eastern Europe are less satisfied with the educational quality and infrastructure. Variations in satisfaction may reflect differences in quality, but also differences in expectations, and motivation. Norwegian students abroad differ from students Norway by being clearly more motivated. Mobile students in some educational fields have higher grades than students in Norway (e.g. humanities and social sciences), in others lower (medicine, psychology). Regarding social origin, we find that Norwegian students abroad more often have parents with HE compared to students in Norway, when field of study is taken into account differences are small. High parental income increases the likelihood of studying art and business abroad. Investigating career outcomes, we found that among exchange students, only students in business and administration were more likely to find (relevant) compared to non-mobile students. Exchange students as well as graduates who have taken a full degree abroad receive a small wage premium compared to non-mobile students. This is partly due to selection; Mobile students have some characteristics that generally pay off positively in the labour market. Mobile students have a slightly different personality profile than those who have all their education in Norway, but that this has relatively little impact on labour market returns. However, HE from abroad increases the likelihood of having internationally oriented jobs. Both exchange students and those who have completed their entire education in Norway have a higher probability of working abroad and having jobs with an international aspect in Norway. But the vast majority return to Norway; among those who have completed their entire education abroad, four out of five are back in Norway a few years after graduation. We have also been involved in studies reviewing international literature on the impact of ISM on labour market outcomes, finding that ISM has little effect on employment and wages. Graduates with ISM experience nevertheless find that they have developed qualities that employers demand. The project has a qualitative sub-project that looks at how ISM is perceived in teacher education programmes, and which factors are drivers in mobility policy. Tea Dyred Pedersen's doctoral thesis, (which will be defended at OsloMet in October 2023) is based on this. Results show that different understandings of ISM contribute to creating tensions. ISM is understood as relevant for the students' future professional practice, but academic and bureaucratic purposes are also perceived as important among the stakeholders involved. It is underscored that the conditions for mobility can vary between different educational contexts, and that this is a point that is often overlooked by policymakers.

Prosjektet har bidratt med viktige empiriske bidrag til forskningsfeltet internasjonal studentmobilitet gjennom vitenskapelige artikler og bokkapitler i internasjonale og norske publikasjoner. Gjennom prosjektet, publikasjonene og vårt internasjonale advisory board, har vi fått synliggjort forskerteamets kompetanse på feltet. Denne synligheten har bidratt til at vi har blitt trukket inn i formaliserte, internasjonale nettverk (COST ENIS), og vi forventer at dette i framtiden vil gi flere muligheter for internasjonalt samarbeid. NIFU er involvert i den internasjonale kandidatundersøkelsen Eurograduate, og vil trekke veksler på erfaringene fra MOBILITY-prosjektet i utarbeiding av denne undersøkelsen Prosjektet bidrar til kompetanseheving gjennom to doktorgrader. Internasjonale vurderingskomiteer kan bidra til at (resultater fra) vårt forskningsmiljø blir bedre kjent. Resultatene fra prosjektet utgjør et viktig kunnskapsgrunnlag for politikkutformere. Et eksempel på at prosjektet alt har hatt nytteverdi for denne gruppen, er at Kunnskapsdepartementet konsulterte forskere i prosjektgruppen (gjennom møter), både ved NIFU og OsloMet i forbindelse med arbeidet med stortingsmelding om internasjonal studentmobilitet, og at flere forskerteamets publikasjoner ble sitert i den aktuelle stortingsmeldingen (Meld. St. 7 2020-2021). For UH-ansatte kan resultatene gi grunnlag for refleksjon over egen praksis, og å gi mer relevant informasjon til (potensielt) mobile studenter. For mobile studenter kan resultatene bidra til å gjøre mer informerte valg.

The project will study drivers and consequences of international student mobility in a Norwegian context. Practices, patterns and outcomes of student mobility are addressed, and we will discuss whether results are consistent with the policy rationale for student mobility. Four interrelated work packages (WPs) are included. WP1 investigates how shaping national and institutional policies interacts with international developments such as the educational policies of the EU, globalisation and marketization of higher education. WP2 focuses on mobile students (outgoing and incoming: their background, rationales for studying abroad, and assessments of quality and learning environment. The WP also discusses the extent to which student mobility serves as a tool for enhancing quality in Norwegian higher education. WP3 investigates labour market effects of international student mobility. Graduates who have undertaken the entire, or parts of their higher education abroad are compared to graduates without such experience, with a particular focus on variations by subject field. Survey and register data are applied; the latter providing new insights into career development over time. Analyses of an international graduate survey, EUROGRADUATE, will provide a useful comparative perspective. WP4 is an in-depth study aiming to identify drivers and barriers at the programme level, and deepen the understanding of how mobility is interpreted and experienced among academic staff, mobile and non-mobile students. The WP addresses implementation and justification of mobility strategies in a professional programme with weak traditions for mobility. i.e. teaching. The cases will be teaching programmes in Norway as well as other Nordic countries. The project has a sound empirical basis. We have access to a range of unique quantitative data allowing innovative analyses. Qualitative approaches are applied in case studies, and for in-depth understanding of rationales and experiences.

Publications from Cristin

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren