In both the UK and Ireland, campaigns were recently launched to increase the participation of local students in international mobility programmes, such as those offered under the Erasmus+ umbrella. These initiatives take particular significance in a context of graduate market congestion, and increased emphasis on employability as a mission for the higher education sector. How is the ideal ‘mobile’ student constructed through these national and institutional discourses? How do students respond to this emerging mobility imperative?
Based on a two-year study conducted in Ireland, the paper draws on Bourdieu and Foucault to examine this apparent push towards mass participation in short-term exchange programmes. In particular, it examines the logics at play in institutional discourses and practices around outgoing student mobility, outlining how these align with dominant discourses promoting individualistic, voluntarist attitudes to labour (hyper)mobility over the life-course, and how students adapt to, resist or re-appropriate these expectations.
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