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European vs. national policies for academic mobility – recent trends

In the European context, international (and especially intra-European) student mobility has been promoted in recent years as an uncontested positive and has received a level of policy attention unprecedented anywhere else in the world. Grand mottos like “mobility for all” have become a common feature of EU policy discourse and have been promoted lately as nothing less than EU-wide objectives, in an effort to make mobility “the rule rather than the exception”. 

But do the 27 EU member states and other European countries taking part in EU education programmes—confronted with strikingly different mobility realities—share this rosy view of mobility? New research from ACA shows they do so only to a certain extent. While maintaining a very positive view about “mobility” in general, countries have proven significantly more cautious when it comes to adopting extremely ambitious mobility goals at the national level. In general, they are simply less euphoric in this regard, although much seems to depend on the context in which such goals are elaborated. Specifically, national officials are much more “generous” and “enthusiastic” about mobility in the Bologna context (that has many “carrots” and close to no “sticks”), but they become increasingly modest in target-setting at the EU and at the national level, where they can ultimately be held accountable. 

Also, very importantly, while student mobility seems to be—in one form or another—a national policy objective across Europe, very few European countries actually have a fully-fledged national policy for mobility in place, i.e. one that clearly articulates specific policy elements, such as differentiated:

  • modes of mobility (incoming credit/degree mobility, outgoing credit/degree mobility, of various mobile groups -  student/researchers/faculty/ staff);
  • rationales behind the promotion of different modes of mobility;
  • purposes of mobility (e.g. for study, internship, study-related activities, others);
  • target levels and fields of study at which students should be mobile; 
  • target geographical regions and/or countries for different modes of mobility; 
  • quantitative targets; and 
  • support instruments. 

These are just some of the main findings of the study European and national policies for academic mobility. Linking rhetoric, practice and mobility trends, just published in the monograph series ACA Papers on International Cooperation in Education. This publication was written by ACA, in collaboration with Nuffic and DAAD, and is the end result of the ENPMOB project, carried out between November 2010 and January 2012 with the financial support of the European Commission (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2012).

The publication can be ordered directly from the publisher—Lemmens Verlag