International Student Migration and the Field Theory of Kurt Lewin

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Georg MUELLER, Univ. of Fribourg, Switzerland
This paper aims at a field theoretic reinterpretation of the classical pull-push migration-theory of Everett Lee (1966). It assumes that pull- and push-factors of a migration-target are in the psychological terminology of Kurt Lewin (1964) "positive/negative valences", which generate a field of "driving forces", that determines the "locomotion" of migrants to the mentioned target. The strength of this field depends on the migrant's social attributes as well as on the number of structural holes (Burt, 1992) in the target-region. Even more complicated, the field of the considered target also interacts with the fields of alternative migration targets as well as the retaining field at the origin of migration.

 In the second, empirical part of the paper, the outlined theory of fields of K. Lewin is used in order to explain observational data of the inter-university flows of Erasmus students (European Commission (2014), “Erasmus”). The strength of the field of a target-university is hypothesised to depend on positive valences like its international academic ranking, the number of structural holes in terms of study-places reserved for Erasmus students, but also on negative valences such as the cost of living or the particularities of the language of teaching. These factors are assumed to interact with the migrant student's position in the mentioned social attribute space, operationalized by the teaching language, the cost of living, and the university ranking at the place of origin. By taking all these factors into account, it is possible to explain the observed migration flows by means of statistical regression techniques.