Students have been little studied as a mobile population, despite their increasing importance among human flows in the contemporary globalizing world. This article examines changing mobility patterns, attitudes and behaviours of UK higher education students who spend a part of their degree programme studying or working abroad. The research was stimulated by perceptions that UK students were turning away from international mobility, especially to Europe. Using a multi-method approach, based on further statistical analysis of existing data sources, notably the UK Socrates–Erasmus student dataset, and on a range of questionnaire and interview surveys to staff and students in selected UK higher education institutions, the article explores the changing patterns of student movement and the drivers and barriers to mobility for UK students. We find that UK students's decreasing mobility to Europe is more than compensated by rising flows to other world destinations, especially North America and Australia. Questionnaire and interview data reveal the prime significance of language and financial factors as barriers to European mobility. Evidence also points to the embeddedness of personal mobility in relation to social class and the ways in which the varied practices of a socially differentiated higher education system may reproduce relative social advantage and disadvantage through access to international mobility opportunities. The article concludes with further attempts to conceptualize student mobility and to draw out policy aspects.
- Social class
- Student mobility
- Higher education institution types