The Irish Universities Association report revealed that students who undertake mobility programs develop attractive graduate attributes such as linguistic skills, intercultural competencies and global citizenship.
“Access to higher education and all its benefits and opportunities should be available to individuals”
It calls for national targets to be introduced by the government for the mobility of non-traditional students such as mature students, students with disabilities or from lower socio-economic groups.
The skills developed are particularly beneficial to students from under-represented groups and their development leads to enhanced career opportunities, the report stated.
However, barriers including financial concerns, separation from family, health issues, academic and accommodation issues are among some of the challenges highlighted in the report.
Commenting on the findings the minister stressed the importance of equity of access for all students who wish to participate in available international opportunities in study or internships abroad.
“I see our role as educators and policymakers to give all our students the courage and encouragement that they need regardless of their abilities to pursue their dreams,” said Mitchell O’Connor.
“Access to higher education and all its benefits and opportunities should be available to individuals, independent of socio-economic disadvantage, gender, geographical location, disability or other circumstances.”
Ireland’s national strategy on International Education aspires to increase student mobility to above the European Higher Education Area target of 20% by 2020.
An online resource ‘mobilitytookit.ie’ was also launched to assist Irish HEIs to widen student participation in international mobility opportunities, such as Erasmus +.
Head of International Education at the IUA Sinéad Lucey told The PIE News that the report and toolkit is an important step in the quest to ensure international opportunities are available to all students and not just those who can afford it or whose academic program allows it.
“The IUA and its members are also committed to exploring innovative ways to offer alternative international opportunities such as short-term mobility or virtual mobility,” she added.