Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Features of Internationally Mobile vs. Domestic Students


  • Elisabeth Hovdhaugen Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, Norway
  • Jannecke Wiers-Jenssen Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway



international students, motivation, student characteristics, student mobility, study abroad


In this paper, we investigated how internationally mobile students from Norway diverge from students in Norway regarding social background, grades obtained at upper secondary school, and motivation to study. Data from two comparable surveys were used, one relating to students abroad and one relating to domestic students. Results showed that, on average, mobile students were of higher social origin than domestic students, but this did not apply across all fields. In some subject fields, mobile students had higher grades than domestic students, while they were lower in others. Mobile students clearly demonstrated higher motivation than domestic students, even when controlling for subject field and background variables. In sum, we found that mobile students constitute a select group in several ways, most prominently regarding study motivation. This suggests that mobile students potentially represent a positive contribution to the learning environment in more ways than bringing diversity in cultural background.

Author Biographies

Elisabeth Hovdhaugen, Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, Norway

ELISABETH HOVDHAUGEN, PhD in Sociology, is a senior researcher at Nordic Institute for Studies in Research and Education (NIFU), a private non-profit research institute in Oslo, Norway. Most of her research is centered around students: dropout and completion, study progression, time spent studying, working while studying and access to higher education, as well as student satisfaction and assessments of quality of education.

Jannecke Wiers-Jenssen, Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

JANNECKE WIERS-JENSSEN, PhD in Sociology, is an associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Professions, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway. She holds an adjacent position at the Nordic Institute for Studies in Research and Education (NIFU). Her main research interest is international student mobility, though her publications also cover the transition from higher education to work, students’ assessments of quality and medical education.


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How to Cite

Hovdhaugen, E., & Wiers-Jenssen, J. . (2021). Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay: Features of Internationally Mobile vs. Domestic Students. Journal of International Students, 11(3), 687–705.



Research Articles