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Shaping a (responsible) European citizen? : Analysing European identity and citizenship in the EU discourse on higher education


  • Nina Kind

Summary, in English

It is commonly acknowledged that the European Union (EU) created the notion of a European identity, in order to foster a sense of belonging and identification with the European project among its citizens. The basic assumption to this is that one way to promote a European identity is through higher education and, in particular, student mobility.
This thesis sets out to explore how a European identity is constructed, shaped and promoted through the EU discourse on higher education. Based on a critical discourse analysis of selected EU policy documents and official promotional material from 2007 to 2013 I analyse and critically discuss the EU discourse on higher education. Social constructivism and the concepts of identity and citizenship constitute the theoretical background to this thesis. Furthermore, neoliberalism sets the context of higher education in Europe.
The focus of this research is twofold. First, I explore how a European identity and citizenship is constructed and shaped through the EU discourse on higher education. The results of the analysis show that symbols, such as the Erasmus programme, the European (cultural and linguistic) diversity and the shared past, present and future of Europe build the basis on which a European identity feeling can emerge. The second research purpose is to uncover the EU discourse on higher education and student mobility and to discuss how it is linked to the promotion of a European identity. One of the main findings is that the EU discourse on higher education is connected to neoliberal ideology. Competition and mobility are two overarching themes in the EU discourse on higher education. Furthermore, I show that the notion of European identity is filled with certain ideas and characteristics (such as flexibility, lifelong learning, employability), which are promoted through the EU discourse on higher education. Finally, student mobility and education are depicted not only as fundamental rights, but increasingly as duties and obligations of (responsible) European citizens.







Examensarbete för masterexamen (Två år)


  • Social Sciences


  • Discourse Analysis
  • European Identity
  • European Citizenship
  • Higher Education
  • Neoliberalism
  • Student Mobility


  • Ioana Bunescu