So why are students from Eastern Europe heading west to study?
Mette Ginnerskov-Dahlberg, researcher in the sociology department of the University of Södertörn in Sweden, has launched through several scientific publications a new story explaining why students from Eastern Europe want to study in Western Europe.
In 2017, she co-authored the article: “Between international student mobility and labor migration: experiences of students from new EU member states in Denmark” in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, explaining why, since 2009, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students from new EU Member States enrolling as degree students at Danish universities.
In March 2021, she published an article in the Palgrave Macmillan Handbook on youth mobility and educational migration, “Inherited Dreams of ‘the West’: Eastern European Students’ Paths to Denmark”, in which she argued that students from Eastern Europe are often drawn to free access to top universities, arriving with the dream of creating a better life, and of accumulating Western educational capital.
She reported that previous studies have suggested that student mobility is not given to everyone but must be learned and socialized.
And based on the students’ explanations, she links this learning to how their parents’ passed on ‘a positive travel-related story to their post-communist children, seeing border crossing as an intrinsic value that was refused. to themselves during their education. in post-1945 communist Europe with closed borders.
It draws on an ethnographic study of central and eastern European master’s students at a Danish university to explore some of the factors that drive students from post-communist countries to continue their studies in Denmark.
His analysis further suggests that educational mobility and students’ choice of study destination must be understood in relation to a dominant meta-narrative of ‘the West’ – a progressive place offering a superior mode of existence – which has been cultivated throughout their education.
She underscores how ingrained these students’ desire to travel is in a complex process that begins long before they themselves begin to think about studying abroad.
In July, Ginnerskov-Dahlberg published a book summarizing his analysis, Migration of students from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, forthcoming by Routledge (ISBN: 9780367520731).
Here, she “deploys a new approach to the subject by drawing on the lessons learned from a longitudinal study of master’s students pursuing studies abroad and their multifaceted post-graduate courses. Thus, it brings their stories to life and highlights the changes and continuities they experienced over a period of seven years, fostering an understanding of student mobility as an activity linked to adult commitments and aspirations to long term “.
Using Denmark as a host country case study, Ginnerskov-Dahlberg analyzes the trajectories of these students and situates their experiences within the broader socio-historical context of post-socialism in Eastern Europe, and the contemporary dynamic between European and non-European citizens in the Danish welfare state – reflecting the challenges facing the world today.
The book is presented as a valuable resource for students and scholars of migration and mobility studies, as well as human geography, sociology, higher education, area studies and anthropology.
News from academia has published several articles since 2012 on how Denmark has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of students, especially from Eastern European member countries of the EU, coming to Denmark as migrant workers working until ‘to 10 hours per week and then being eligible for Danish student support which is the most favorable in the world.
News from academia asked Ginnerskov-Dahlberg to elaborate on his conclusion that students from Eastern Europe realize their parents’ “thirst for wandering” – since the days when they were not allowed to cross the borders behind the Iron Curtain in the post-1945 communist zone.
Mette Ginnerskov-Dahlberg said she came to this conclusion by carefully analyzing student accounts presented to her during seven years of longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork.
“It was striking that many students explained that their parents would have wanted to engage in international travel during the time of communism and therefore were very focused on encouraging their children to take advantage of the possibilities. to travel today.
“Obviously, this is not the only reason students from Eastern European countries study abroad, but the perspective serves to highlight the complexity that underlies the mobility of migrant students from abroad. ‘Eastern Europe.
“In the public debate in Denmark, there is a tendency to discuss the motivations of Eastern European students to pursue studies in Denmark as a matter of economics (i.e. free education and the possibility of obtaining the Danish study allowance), but there are many more nuances to their decision.
Denmark is currently on the verge of a political negotiation between the Social Democratic Party and the opposition parties to reduce degrees taught in English in order to stem the influx of “migrant students”, as reported News from academia. This will particularly affect the smaller higher education institutions in the districts.
Ginnerskov-Dahlberg criticizes these policy measures. “International students are an important asset for a small country like Denmark in many ways, both in creating interesting and high-quality environments in universities and in tackling the skills shortage in which Danish companies are confronted.
“In the book I show that many students from Eastern Europe come to Denmark with the intention of staying in the country for the long term and they work hard to find employment in the country after graduation. of their diploma. ”
What advice would she give to students from Eastern Europe who are considering moving to Denmark to study for a higher education degree?
“In my next book, I highlight the number of students, especially from EU countries, who struggle to make ends meet in Denmark and struggle as low-skilled workers alongside their studies.
“One piece of advice I would give to students who are planning to study in Denmark is that Denmark is a very expensive country to live and it can be difficult for students to find ‘study-friendly’ jobs alongside their own. studies.
“So, if possible, try to think of viable ways to finance your studies abroad in advance, to avoid finding yourself in a very stressful situation.”