This study explores students’ attitudes on international exchange programs in higher education in Sweden. Internationalization of higher education has been one of the main agendas during the last decades and increasing students’ international mobility has been one of the key issues in work of internationalisation of higher education. There are strong arguments and assumptions on the positive value of what internationalization of higher education would bring. For the individual students, it is often argued that students would gain international and intercultural knowledge and understandings by studying abroad. In addition
it is not only educational merits but an advantage in employability and mobility in the future labour market, which is described to be international and intercultural.
Exchange studies as an inclusive and integrated part of students’ education are aimed to make it easier for the students to move and study abroad. It is intended that studying abroad would be an open opportunity for students. Despite the accessibilities and universities’ ambitions and efforts in improving conditions for the students, not many students take this opportunity. In Sweden, the number of outgoing students is not impressive. For example during 2007-08, the percentage of outgoing students in higher education was only 1,8 % (Högskoleverket, 2009).
The main question of the study investigates students’ attitudes on exchange programs and their choices; which groups of students are more likely to take part in exchange programs? The study is based on survey data collected from two different educational programs: one is over- represented and the other is under-represented in internationally mobile student groups. Independent variables such as gender, the parents’ socio-economic backgrounds and level of education are used to describe student groups and their attitudes. To gain better understanding on the students’ attitudes and participation in exchange programs, the study further explores; the students’ international experiences, the families’ international experiences and the students’ perceptions on their future labour market.
Influenced by Bourdieu’s work, the concepts such as international capital, educational capital and educational trajectories are used to interpret the results. The results further discuss the students’ subjective attitudes and choices within the objective conditions and structures.
2010. 1-16 p.