International student migration and the European ‘Year Abroad’: effects on European identity and subsequent migration behaviour



This paper first draws attention to the scant literature in population geography on international student migration, or ISM. Yet students comprise an important element in global and European population mobility, especially of highly skilled movements. This study is set within the context of intra-European ISM and looks specifically at the ‘Year Abroad experience’ which has been subsidised over the past 15 years by the Erasmus and Socrates programmes. Empirical data come from questionnaire surveys to three groups of University of Sussex students, surveyed during 2000–01. The main survey was a large postal survey to graduates who had spent a year abroad (YA) in another European country as part of their Sussex degree. This questionnaire was designed to test two sets of hypotheses: firstly that the YA had given students/graduates a more ‘European’ identity or consciousness, and a greater insight into European issues; and secondly that YA graduates would be more likely to pursue their subsequent career/migration paths in continental Europe. These hypotheses were tested against a control sample of Sussex graduates who had not been on a YA, matched by degree type and time of graduation. A third sample was undertaken with second-year undergraduate students about to embark on their YA, in order to test pre- and post-YA perspectives. The results broadly confirm the research hypotheses, although with a variety of nuances and outcomes. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.