From International Students to International Migrants: Cultural and Economic Capital and the Career Paths of Slovak Foreign Students in a Visa Free Europe

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Miloslav BAHNA, Institute for Sociology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
Typically, studies studying mobility of international students focus at return and stay intentions of international students at their place of study. The decision to stay in the country of study has been described as a particular form of brain drain typically affecting third world countries. However, no academic research exists on international student mobility under the conditions of free movement in the EU. Our presentation focuses on international students from Slovakia, a country ranking third in the OECD in the share of tertiary students enrolled abroad. Our quantitative study is based on a survey of 200 parents of international students from Slovakia who finished their university study outside of Slovakia at least two years before the 2014 fieldwork. Available information about the family background of the students enables us to use structural equation modelling to describe the interplay of educational and economic background of the family of orientation and the study choices and decisions to return to Slovakia of the students. We demonstrate that high cultural capital explains the preference of Western Europe over universities in the neighbouring countries (e.g. Czech Republic) and increases the probability of staying abroad after finishing university. On the other hand, high economic capital has no impact on the place of study, however, it increases the probability of return to Slovakia after finishing studies. As it is mostly the students from families with high cultural capital who study abroad who at the same time also have a higher propensity to stay abroad after their studies we speak of a cultural elite drain from Slovakia. We hypothesise a positive impact of this phenomena on vertical mobility in Slovak society as prestigious positions – traditionally better accessible by the “cultural elite” - become available for the ambitious offspring of families with lower levels of cultural capital.