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Network for interdisciplinary research on international student mobility receives European COST grant

Published: 23rd June 2021 Last updated: 24th June 2021

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) awards grants for innovative international research networks. Christof Van Mol (TSB, Sociology) was Tilburg University’s first researcher ever to receive such a grant for his initiative to connect researchers and policymakers in the field of international student mobility (ISM). “International exchange can have a huge impact on students' lives, but scientific research on this is still in its infancy. Research is fragmented and there is hardly any connection with practice. Thanks to this grant, we can change that.”

Christof Van Mol

Although international student exchange - with the exception of the corona years - takes place on a large scale, research into this phenomenon has only really taken off in the last ten years. Christof Van Mol: "Researchers who are involved in international student mobility (ISM) often have no connection with each other. As a result, a lot of replication takes place and there is little progress. Many PhD candidates with an interest in this field of research are now stuck, which is a shame. The network will contribute to a better understanding of ISM in Europe and provide opportunities for researchers to develop their work in this field and collaborate with peers."

The network will provide opportunities for researchers to work together with peers and get a closer connection to practice


A second goal of the network is to promote the conversation between science and practice. According to Van Mol, scientific research on international student mobility is policy-relevant. ISM is on the agenda of governments, the European Commission, International Offices and organizations such as Nuffic. “Active policy is being drawn up, but scientific insights are insufficiently used. Decisions are made on ‘gut feeling’ or based on assumptions that are not always correct. On the other hand, science is still too much in the ivory tower and possible policy implications are not always practically feasible. There is a mismatch between science and practice.”


That is a bad thing, because policy on ISM can have consequences on various aspects in the lives of students. It is important to know what the exact impact is and when it is important so you can better inform students about, for example, their chances on the labor market. There are many questions to answer: Is social inequality increasing due to ISM? Should you encourage this more in certain groups? What is the effect then? The same goes for gender - women make more use of ISM, but what does this mean for them – and ethnicity. Five projects within the network will tackle these issues, as well as the question of how to translate science into practice. Given the major influence of Corona on travel movements, all project groups are also looking at what (lasting) changes and consequences the pandemic will bring.”

More about the network

About COST

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) has been funding research networks for 50 years under the name 'COST Actions'. These networks provide open space for collaboration between scientists across Europe (and beyond), thereby spurring research progress and innovation. COST is bottom-up. Researchers can create a network based on their own interests and ideas by submitting a proposal to the COST Open Call. The proposal can be in any scientific field. It is also possible to join ongoing actions, which allow networks to grow during the four-year funding period. The Actions involve multiple stakeholders from the private sector, policy and civil society.