The data collection was planned by a team of two master’s degree students and one researcher who all have mobility experiences and two are with disabilities. The planning involved reviewing previous research and reports on international student mobility. The survey and interview themes and questions were prepared in collaboration with JYU’s student services and international office.
The team designed an online survey and piloted its accessibility at JYU with five respondents, including students, student services and other university staff, among them some with disabilities. The first version was prepared in Finnish and English, and each respondent could choose the language of their preference. The questionnaire worked well using common browsers (Internet explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox), though not through Linux. The student services confirmed, however, that students prefer the common browsers which are used also by the university services.
The first question in the survey requested students to identify themselves in one of the potential respondent groups, i.e. those who have:
- thought about studying abroad but haven’t been abroad yet
- been abroad (study exchange or internship abroad)
- not thought about studying abroad.
These three groups correspond to categories identified in previous reports on international mobility. For each respondent group there was a specific set of questions (Appendix X).
Information about the survey, its purpose, scope and target group, and a link to the survey were sent to potential respondents by the disability coordinators, by email and/or using the participating HEIs’ websites. In Denmark and Iceland, for instance, the questionnaire was sent to those students who have an agreement regarding special support during their studies. In Finland, the regular student services’ news email and website provided information and a link to the online questionnaire. Students were informed that the survey was available also word format by request.
In the questionnaire, the respondents were asked about their willingness to voluntarily participate in interviews. The student team members interviewed six students with disabilities in Finland and four Iceland. In Norway, the disability coordinators interviewed six students. Due to the limited time, it was not possible to conduct interviews in all the participating HEIs, though there were students willing to be interviewed.
Survey respondents and interviewees
The biggest challenge, according to the disability coordinators, was how to reach the potential respondents and motivate them to participate in the survey. In general, response rates in student surveys are low, on one hand due to the amount of information provided for students and on the other hand due to their busy schedules. With this survey’s target group, it was difficult to have and even estimate the response rate, because most HEIs register support needs rather than students with disabilities and others have no register, which means that the accurate number of students with disabilities is not known (see the Country reports).
The number of respondents in the participating HEIs was too small to provide comparative statistics. SDU had the biggest number of respondents, a total of 79 students, most them were female (80%). The respondents’ age varied from 20 to 52, the biggest age group were students who were 20-24 (43%). The respondents’ self-reported fields of studies were organised into broader categories (in line with CIMO et al. 2013). The most common fields of studies were 1) medicine, health and welfare related fields, 2) humanities and arts, and 3) social sciences, business and law. At JYU seven women and six men responded to the survey. The respondents’ age varied from 19 to 54. The details of respondents from the other participating HEIs are not provided, because the numbers of respondents were very small and the students’ identity has to be protected. When presenting the findings, reference is made only to the HEI or country, without any personal details of the respondents or interviewees.