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The social selectivity of international mobility among German university students: A multi-level analysis of the impact of the Bologna process

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  • Finger, Claudia
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    This discussion paper deals with the social selectivity of internationally mobile German students prior to and after the Bologna Process thereby linking two mobility dimensions that a very rarely brought together - social and spatial mobility. Tackling this issue on multiple levels, I ask how student mobility is understood within key Bologna documents (declarations and communiqués) and how this is related to the social selectivity of international mobility among university students in Germany before and after the begin of the Bologna process (1998/99). At the European level, I examine the Bologna model of mobility as it is presented within central documents of the Bologna Process using a theory-guided qualitative content analysis. Sociological Neo-Institutionalism serves as theoretical and analytical framework to investigate institutional facilitators and barriers to the diffusion of the mobility model to the national and individual levels. Afterwards, I contextualize the German higher education system and describe the specific reception and translation of the Bologna model of mobility by German actors in higher education. At the individual level, Bourdieu's theory of educational reproduction is applied to the case of international student mobility to explain the socially stratified mobility behavior of German students with regard to the decision to go abroad, the country of destination and the duration of a study-related stay abroad. Further, I analyze the impact of the Bologna Process using survey data provided by the German National Association of Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk) of two cohorts: pre-Bologna (1997) and post-Bologna (2006). The main findings suggest that the social background of students is especially important when it comes to the decision to go abroad. However, if students have broken through the first obstacle and decided to go abroad, the influence of the social origin on the country of destination and the duration of mobile periods declines. The correlation between social origin and international mobility has, thus far, not weakened over the course of the Bologna Process. Rather, it has increased over time, indicating an incomplete diffusion in Germany of the relatively vague contents of the Bologna model of mobility from the European to the individual level. This result suggests that the Bologna process goals of enhanced spatial and social mobility have not (yet) been achieved.

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    Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Skill Formation and Labor Markets with number SP I 2011-503.

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    Date of creation: 2011
    Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbslm:spi2011503
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    1. Powell, Justin J. W. & Coutrot, Laurence & Graf, Lukas & Bernhard, Nadine & Kieffer, Annick & Solga, Heike, 2009. "Comparing the relationship between vocational and higher education in Germany and France," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Skill Formation and Labor Markets SP I 2009-506, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    2. Hall, Peter A. & Taylor, Rosemary C. R., 1996. "Political science and the three new institutionalisms," MPIfG Discussion Paper 96/6, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
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