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Gender and class perspectives on students' choice of higher education institutions and graduates' choice of job location (Mobility)

University colleges in the less populated regions are expected to attract non-traditional students and thereby contribute to increased educational level and equality. Moreover, there are expectations that tertiary educated will remain in the region of their alma mater and contribute to a revitalisation of the region. Are these visions likely to come through?

The “Mobility project” is investigating to what extent the geographical mobility of tertiary educated people will contribute to recreate existing gender and class structures or is a factor towards democratisation. We are identifying which groups of students who are movers or stayers in relation to their region of adolescence and region of higher education studies, thereafter where they decide to establish themselves. Part of the project is also to study to what extent tertiary educated people vitalise regions by starting businesses.

Relying on reproduction theories, it can be expected that students from a privileged family background utilise the possibility to be geographically mobile in order to take part of the “best” education and career development. On the one hand, it is possible that university colleges in the less populated regions attract “privileged” students whose own educational merits are poor and thus prevent them from entering a prestigious university in the city regions. On the other hand, university colleges could increase equality by their accessibility, attracting people in the vicinity. The outcome could also be twofold, that is, recreation and vitalisation may occur parallel, but for different groups of students, in different field of education, in different regions.

To investigate these questions and hypothesis we analyse register data. Register data are information about the individual collected by different institutions, such as school, employer, or landlord. A system of personal identification numbers that are systematically used in nearly all aspects of people’s lives, make it possible to link information, at individual level, from several different sources and to study individual paths over time. We have information of the total population in Sweden born between 1973-1982. Most recent data is from 2011, this being when these individuals were aged between 29 and 38 years. The extensive information contributes to a good overview and understanding of reasons for mobility.

Human geographers and economists have been interested in mobility, particularly in international mobility. However, few studies have focussed on national mobility in relation to higher education. To determine what a “move” is, the project has created a detailed definition. Previous definitions do not lend themselves easily, because of systematical errors and because of the reduced individual choices caused by the location of higher education institutions and by the specialisation the individuals have achieved during their studies.

Generally, young women are more mobile than men, however, that is because they study at higher education to a larger extent. After the decision to study at higher education is made, the likelihood for mobility is the same for men and women. However, a strong factor for mobility is the choice of educational field, which is strongly linked to gender. Parents’ educational level continues to influence their children’s inclination to be mobile. Those whose parents’ are academically educated are more likely to move, particularly between city regions.

In addition to previous research we apply a relational perspective, which means that we take into account the interrelationships of individuals´characteristics such as age and grades, cultural factors such as gender expectations and structural factors such as the arrangement of the higher education and labour markets. We are particularly interested in the structures that frame individuals’ possibilities to education and work.

Research environment

Prerequisites, Education and Outcomes (FUR)

Project participants

Associate professor Caroline Berggren, University of Gothenburg – host university
Professor Anders Olofsson, Mid Sweden University
Ph. D. Aimee Haley, University of Gothenburg


Swedish Research Council, www.vr.se


2013-2019 Total 8257 SEK (tkr)




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Caroline Berggren
+46 (0) 31 786 2061

Contact Information

Department of Education and Special Education

PO Box 300, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Visiting Address:
Pedagogen Hus A, Västra Hamngatan 25

+46 31 786 0000

+46 31 786 2070

Page Manager: Lisbeth Dahlén|Last update: 11/30/2017

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