Strategies of Social Reproduction: Medical Students from Germany in Central and Eastern Europe from a Centre–Periphery Perspective

Gregor Schäfer


Higher education degrees from European Union countries are automatically recognised in other Member States. However, legal recognition does not necessarily translate into symbolic recognition in the profession. This dynamic can be observed in the field of medicine in Germany, where German graduates often face symbolic devaluation when they graduate in certain other countries and return to work in Germany. At the same time, the group of foreign medical students is socially exclusive, and admission to a medical programme in Germany is difficult and unsuccessful for many applicants. Based on the theory of symbolic power and capital and a centre–periphery perspective, this paper reconstructs the means and ways by which privileged students from the centre, Germany, seek social reproduction by studying medicine abroad in the semi-periphery, Hungary, Latvia and Romania. The results show that moving to the semi-periphery is only chosen when other alternatives in the centre are not feasible. Certain symbolic disadvantages of studying abroad were identified, and countermeasures were developed to ensure symbolic legitimacy upon return. The results also show that the semi-periphery is not homogeneous in its symbolic ambivalence from a centre–periphery perspective.


Centre-periphery, social reproduction, medical students, medical studies, social selectivity

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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X