Drawing on interviews with higher education ‘policy influencers’ from six European countries (Denmark, England, Germany, Ireland, Poland, and Spain), this talk will consider the ways in which students were commonly understood by this particular group of social actors. It will argue that, although a number of the characteristics of contemporary students identified by the interviewees are evident across many nation-states within Europe, they were frequently discussed and explained in terms of very distinct ‘national narratives’, with policy influencers often making reference to their country’s specific history and culture. The implications of such narratives for European higher education and geopolitical relations more generally will be explored.
Rachel Brooks is Professor of Higher Education at University College London and an executive editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education. Her recent books include Education and Society (2018) and Materialities and Mobilities in Education (2017, with Johanna Waters). She is currently leading a European Research Council-funded project on constructions of higher education students across Europe.