The Experience of Internationalisation of Students Participating in A European Union Funded Erasmus Mundus Masters Level Programme

  • Christopher Grinbergs

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The European Union (EU) spent €1 billion per year on Higher Education Initiatives between 2004 and 2009. Amongst these was Erasmus Mundus which brought international, Masters-level students into Europe to study at three or more European universities in different countries. This research aimed to understand the approach to internationalisation behind the EU’s investment in the initiative and how that relates to students’ understandings of Europe and experience of internationalisation.

From an analysis of the policy documentation, the argument is made that the Erasmus Mundus initiative drew on economic, cross-cultural, relational and educational approaches to internationalisation. Elements of these approaches affected Europe’s ability to influence students through Soft Power, defined as ’the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion or payments’ (Nye, 2005:11). In particular, it is argued that the view of Soft Power in these documents relies on the development of Social Capital between students, defined as ’social networks and the norms of reciprocity associated with them’ (Putnam, 2002:4).

This research explored students’ experience of internationalisation in a particular iteration of Erasmus Mundus. Questionnaires (n=48) and semi-structured interviews (n=23) were coded and analysed, using Soft Power and Social Capital to inform the analysis. The data shows that an economic approach to internationalisation was an important influence on the students which is in part due to the influence of a neoliberal rhetoric on the initiative and on the students whilst in Europe. There are also examples of networking, reflective of relational and cross-cultural approaches to internationalisation. However, the findings from this research suggest that an economic approach to internationalisation has been a particular influence on the students’ understanding of Europe and experience of internationalisation, showing evidence of Soft Power attraction by the EU through the design of this initiative.
Date of Award30 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorKathryn Hoskins (Supervisor)

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