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More than half of UK outbound exchanges are through Erasmus, says report

More than half of all overseas exchanges undertaken by UK students in the academic year 2013/14 were through the Erasmus programme, according to a report from Universities UK International.

Of the 2014/15 graduating cohort, 16,165 students (7.2%) were mobile at some point during their course. Photo: Universities UK International.

UK participation in Erasmus has increased by over 50% since 2007/08

As in previous years, the report also shows that students who have spent time abroad for either work, study or volunteering, have better graduate outcomes compared to those who haven’t. The biggest difference seen in black and Asian students.

The third annual report, Gone International: mobility works, focuses on the 2014/15 graduating cohort, and analyses their exchanges which took place in the previous academic year.

“Most of our counterparts across the EU have come out very firmly echoing that they wish to continue working with the UK”

The report is based on results from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey, and the student records from HESA, generating a sample of 225,880 students.

Of these, 16,165 students (7.2%) were mobile at some point during their course.

This is an increase from 5.4% of the 2013/14 graduating cohort.

Erasmus accounted for 55% of all exchanges that took place for a week or more in 2013/14, while 37% of exchanges were led by providers.

Less than 4% of exchanges were conducted through sandwich programmes.

Erasmus also accounted for over three quarters (76.9%) of language subject exchanges.

The report outlines that UK participation in Erasmus has increased by over 50% since 2007/08, with the 2013/14 academic year reaching record levels of participation.

However, with Brexit negotiations looming, educators have voiced their concerns about the future of the mobility scheme.

Universities UK has identified access to Erasmus+ as one of its top priorities in exit negotiations, said Raegan Hiles, head of outward mobilities programmes at Universities UK International.

However, she added that even if the UK’s Erasmus+ participation is curbed, engagement with European universities will continue.

“Most of our counterparts across the EU have come out very firmly echoing that they wish to continue working with the UK,” she told The PIE News. “And we wish to continue working with them.”

Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at Reading University echoed that regardless of what happens with the future of Erasmus+, universities will continue to promote study abroad in Europe and further afield.

“I very much hope the UK will remain part of Erasmus,” he told The PIE News. “But if it’s not we, with our partners, will find other instruments (bilateral and other arrangements) to support the increasing demand from students for international experiences, and the increasing need from employers for internationally aware and able graduates.”

The report also illustrates that those who undertook a period of international mobility had improved outcomes post-graduation – only 3.7% of the graduates who undertook a mobility period were unemployed, in comparison with 4.9% of those who had not studied abroad.

And 80.1% of those who went abroad achieved a first class or upper second class degree, compared with 73.6% of those who didn’t study abroad.

“We’re seeing this year-on-year that students who have a period of mobility are consistently, when we look at that cohort, coming out with better degree outcomes, better employability outcomes, and improved salaries,” said Hiles.

“The more that we see this happen the more that I think it adds real weight to the fact that mobility makes a difference.”

This year’s report also echoes last year’s findings that the difference in unemployment rate between students who had gone abroad and those who hadn’t was particularly distinct among black and Asian students.

“I think it adds real weight to the fact that mobility makes a difference”

The unemployment rate for mobile black students was 4.6%, compared with 7.8% among their non-mobile counterparts. For Asian students, the unemployment rate was 4.5% among mobile Asian students, and 7.7% for non-mobile Asian students.

The differences for these students are more pronounced, compared with white students, where the unemployment rate was 3.5% for mobile students and 4.3% for non-mobile students.

And the percentage difference in salaries between mobile and non-mobile students from socially-economically disadvantaged backgrounds was also more prominent, with a difference of 6.1%, compared with a 3.4% difference with those from advantaged backgrounds.

The association is currently in the process of refreshing the national strategy for outward mobility, which, according to Hiles, will set some “ambitious targets” for UK students to undertake a period of time overseas.

There will also be initiatives to break down barriers to participation for students from more disadvantaged backgrounds.

“That might well be some of things like short-term mobility,” Hiles suggested. “Mobility that won’t interrupt being able to work, that won’t interrupt much family commitments, when we know they still have a phenomenal impact on the students’ outcomes.”

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