One of the most pressing issues for European unity is the functioning of the common European currency, the Euro. Ever since Mundell (1961) laid the foundations for the theory of optimal currency areas, one essential feature of such an area is labour mobility. Without going into the details of economic theory, it is quite intuitive to understand why a high degree of labour mobility and exibility is highly beneficial for Europe. If workers moved according to economic necessities, the disparities between different regions in Europe could be mitigated more easily. Unemployment could be lowered if people moved quickly to where jobs are abundant. However, this is one of the very problems the European labour market faces, a lack of mobility and exibility compared to other economic areas sharing a single currency (e.g. the United States). Acknowledging this challenge, the Europe 2020 strategy (European Commission, 2010) includes promoting labour mobility into one if its flagship initiatives to help increase employment levels.

While the hurdles for European labour mobility have been gradually lowered, in particular in terms of legal obstacles, moving to a different country remains difficult. The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) strongly believes that student mobility can substantially contribute to lower such obstacles. The insecurities of moving to a different country and culture are much lower once somebody has already experienced such a change. Although this line of argumenta on appears obvious, science evidence on student mobility and subsequent labour mobility is scarce. With its unique position, ESN is able to reach a substantial number of students and explore their ideas and opinions on issues related to student mobility. Thus with the 7th edition of our flagship research project ESNsurvey, we address the added value of exchange towards employment to further contribute to the crucial European topic of today. 

Key findings

Satisfaction with the experience abroad

  • Around 86% of responding students are rather satisfied or very satisfied with their stay abroad during their studies or internship. Around 75% of students are rather satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their studies or internship.
  • More than half of all respondents with an ESN section present at their host institution say that the volunteer work of ESN has encouraged them to join voluntary activities. 

Labour market and mobility

  • Important obstacles for future labour mobility areowning real estate, financial commitments and personal ties and commitments in the home country. In this context, the difference between students having studied abroad and those not having studied abroad but intending to do so is slight. Respondents that indicate no intention to study abroad or are unsure about it, consistently evaluate different obstacles as more important. This result could be an indication that future mobility decisions are quite dependent on convincing individuals to go abroad at an early stage of their education.
  • The most important factors that motivate respondents to work abroad are greater opportunities for personal development, better working conditions, a better salary and previous experience in the potential host country. Differences between students that have had a study or traineeship experience abroad, those who are planning to do so in the future and those who indicate no intention or are unsure about it are small. A notable exception is that a large diaspora living in the respective country encourages the latter group more than the former two.
  • A majority of students (60%) express their willingness to work in a field where they have no previous experience whereas half of the respondents (49%) say they are willing to work in field not related to their studies.

Employability

  • More than 97% of all respondents consider having studied abroad an advantage on the job market.
  • Students who studied abroad evaluate many professional and study related skills consistently higher than the peer group without a mobility experience. Most notably, students with study abroad experience rate their foreign language skills and ability to work in an intercultural environment much higher than their counterparts with no study abroad experience.
  • Studying abroad helps widening individual career opportunities by enlarging networks, improving knowledge of foreign languages and boosting self-confidence.

Environment

  • After returning from studies or traineeships abroad, international students change their environment-related behaviour such as the use of public transport or bikes, suggesting that the quality of supply in these areas has an impact on people’s choices.

Authors

Authors: Emanuel Alfranseder (ed.), Jesús Escrivá Muñoz, Julia Fellinger, Aimee Haley, Asror Nigmonov Marge Taivere and Josefin Svensson.

The Project

The ESNSurvey is the biggest regular European research project planned and carried out entirely by students for students. It is conducted annually and surveys students at higher education institutions. ESN shares the results with the main stakeholders in higher education and mobility programmes.

ESNSurvey aims at:

  • Exploring current issues connected to academic and non-academic mobility and education.
  • Gettting a better insight into student issues in order to represent their real needs.