22 SES 02 A, Academic Careers: PhD's and Doctorates
As globalization progress and economies, states, societies and peoples are getting more interconnected through technological, economic and political developments, mobility becomes more crucial for individuals, especially in the working sphere. Mobility not only condense as (trans-)migration of low-skilled workers (i.a. Faist 1998, 2000; Pries 1999, 2001), in search of better salary and prospects. Mobility can also be central for high-skilled workers, who are supposed to move around in order to fulfil their job requirements (Kofmann 2000; Mahroum 2000a, 2001). A sub-group of high-skilled workers are scientists, who work under specific conditions (Mahroum 2000b; Ackers 2004, 2005, 2008; Jöns 2007; Schaer et al. 2017). Mobility is also important for them, not only to enhance science itself and bring together the best minds to achieve better results and a more fruitful process, but also for the career development for the individual scholar (Jaksztat et al. 2011).
The research question will emphasize on when, where, how and under what circumstances the doctoral candidates gained their mobility capital, that they finally utilized in their move to another country. As in the original capital theory, the relevant factors of building up the capital, especially the social background and environment, will be discussed. Particular focus will be on the question, if the mobility capital is as closely connected to the milieu of the individual, as it is with the classical capital forms. Furthermore, the relevance and influence of the gained mobility capital for future plans of the academics will be put in context.
The paper uses the term ‘mobility capital’ (Corbett 2007), which is also named by some authors ‘transnational capital’ (Weenink 2014), ‘cosmopolitan capital’ (Weenink 2007, 2008), or ‘migrationspecific capital’ (Massey & Espinosa 1997). I choose to use mobility as it emphasizes the act of moving around and the connected requirements, which will be in the focus of my analysis. Mobility capital draws on the capital concept of Pierre Bourdieu (1984, 1986). It can be embodied cultural capital as an attitude towards new horizons and challenges or work experiences in different countries. As institutionalized cultural capital in form of international/binational certificates and degrees. As social capital in form of contacts and a network that stresses internationally. Mobility capital represents a form of symbolic capital (Murphy-Lejeune 2002). It can be accumulated and used in private and professional contexts and is to a certain extent interchangeable between those two spheres. Its aggregation starts with a very young age, for example through vacations with parents or other relatives, as the habituation of having mobile parents, while living in one spot or moving with the parents for work. But also through other patterns, such as an education that teaches openness and curiosity, book literacy and ‘physical and virtual transmission of information, good and bodies’ (Corbett 2007: 783). For that, it is closely connected to the social and cultural habitus background of the family (Findlay et al. 2012), as it is the characteristic for the capital theory in general (Bourdieu 1984). Mobility trajectories are closely connected to the milieu of the mobile (Bourdieu 1990). This continues with active decisions in later life as an adolescent and adult, like going abroad for a school exchange, doing vacations with friends, make a gap year abroad and choose a university in a different country, etc. It is an enabler and prior condition for (more) mobility choices as well as something that is gained by being mobile. Insofar it is reciprocal. This is second by surveys on academic mobility, which state that mobility will spark more mobility (Findlay et al. 2012; Netz & Jaksztat 2014; Børing et al. 2015).
Empirical data is collected through biographical interviews from graduates of the SSH (social sciences and humanities), who completed their studies at German universities and work as PhD candidates at Dutch or French universities at the time of the interviews, have been conducted. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, especially the natural sciences, are traditionally more open (in opposite to nationally closed) compared to humanities or social sciences due to their different scientific practices. Whereas the former work with non-human material, which is easy to de-contextualize from national contexts and traditions, the latter are mostly within fields that have to put attention towards cultural, linguistic and national characteristics and are not much standardized. (Ackers 2008; Ackers 2013) Mobility in the SSH is less frequent and harder to achieve because ‘language skills and cultural knowledge are often necessary for conducting research projects.’ (Jöns 2007: 88) France and the Netherlands were chosen for their high percentage of Germans amongst students and academic staff they are practical examples for our empirical research. So far, 35 interviews have been implemented, 25 in the Netherlands and 10 in France. The biographical interview is a suitable instrument for the research questions, because it reveals through its in-depth narration all dimensions - professional and private - of orientation in the accumulation of mobility capital. This type of interview gives the interviewees the chance to emphasize on the relevant topics and things of their own, without imposing the researcher’s ideas and notions on them (Corbin & Morse 2003). It starts with an open stimulus, to unfold a personal narration, which ensures a good quality of information. An interview guideline was only used for subjects that were not addresses in the original narration. For analysis, a combination of Documentary Method (Nohl 2009; Bohnsack et al. 2013; Bohnsack 2014) and Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967; Strauss & Corbin 1990) is applied. The first has the advantage to uncover not only explicit orientations and motivations but also implicit ones. This comes especially handy in the context of the research question, because accumulation and usage of mobility capital (and other capital forms) is for distinction (Bourdieu 1984). And distinction and can be addressed and manifest itself in a narration through many different ways by the interviewee. For that, Documentary method analysis is especially beneficial in combination with biographical interviews. The Grounded Theory is useful in organizing an analysis across many interviews.
As research and analysis are still under process, the presented results and thoughts are only of a preliminary nature. The common characteristic of the sample is, that every interviewee did their PhD abroad at the time of the interview. As we had to expanded our sample during the field access to find enough interview partners, some of them already studied outside of Germany. This means, all interviewees had experience with (professional) mobility and accumulated some kind of mobility capital. However, the social background, which is important to the capital theory, of interviewees very heterogenous. From people, whose parents have no formal education at all, to others, where both parents studied and work in academia. The same applies to mobility trajectories. Some cases have been used to all kinds of (high) mobility from an early age. Others described their upbringing and biography prior to PhD or studies as relative immobile. This might be a hint to an easier acquirement of mobility capital as other capital forms. Nevertheless, it can be expected, that the form and intensity of mobility varied and vary, with the milieu background and its mobility pattern. An expected outcome could be, that differences, due to different backgrounds, in the access and accumulation of (mobility) capital will get smaller or vanish overtime in academia (Mare 1980, 1981). In this context, it would be particular interesting to explore, how interviewees from immobile households and low in capital equipment accessed mobility capital and utilized it.
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