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Short mobility ‘much more’ than just tourism

Recent research has revealed that short-term mobility programs add considerable value to Australia’s university students and cannot be touted as mere holiday getaways for outbound students, as is commonly perceived.

Countries formerly on the "periphery" of learning abroad destinations, such as Cambodia, now provide powerful learning spaces for Australian students, researchers said. Photo: pexels

Japan, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Republic of Korea, India, Singapore, Malaysia were the top eight countries for student participants

Researchers led by Ly Tran of Deakin University, conducted a national survey of 1,371 Australian New Colombo Plan students and alumni from 40 universities studying in the Indo-Pacific. The research found that the impact of short-term mobility on student learning outcomes and development to be similar to that of long-term mobility and even better in some aspects.

“This research provides the empirical evidence to challenge this myth and shows how curriculum-specific learning can be nurtured through cross-country interactions of different discipline-specific knowledge domains within well-designed short-term mobility programs,” Tran told The PIE.

The mean scores for short-term mobility programs (4.25/5) were found to be not significantly different to the mean scores (4.3/5) of long-term programs.

In fact, the research revealed that against student satisfaction with learning abroad experience, short-term mobility programs scored higher than their long-term counterparts — with the mean scores being 8.81/10 and 8.49/10 on “meeting student expectations”, respectively.

Tran highlighted that the programs had a significant positive impact on enhancing students’ cultural competence along with the parallel benefit of enriching Australia’s soft diplomacy with partners in the Indo-Pacific — something increasingly becoming the cornerstone of the country’s international engagement priorities.

Japan, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Republic of Korea, India, Singapore, Malaysia were the top eight countries for the student participants in the study. Around 66% of the students indicated the learning abroad experience made them interested in pursuing employment in the Indo-Pacific.

It also provides evidence about the values of learning abroad in the Indo-Pacific via the New Colombo Plan in terms of building multilateral relationships, establishing and reinforcing research and industry partnerships, strengthening the internationalisation of education and domestic and international recruitment for both home and host universities, and creating social impacts for Australian and Indo-Pacific communities.

“The New Colombo Plan marks the reciprocity of student mobility, where formerly colonised countries in the Indo-Pacific such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Brunei, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, which used to be periphery learning abroad destinations, now provide powerful learning spaces for students from a Western country like Australia,” Tran mentioned.

“The learning and connections that Australian students have accumulated and developed through the Indo-Pacific learning abroad experiences as shown in this research demonstrate the value of reciprocal learning, human-to-human experiences and human-to-human connections rather than the predominant one-way flow of knowledge and learning from the West to developing countries.”

It underscores the importance to design and nurture mobility experiences”

When asked about the impact that she and her colleagues were hoping to achieve in terms of strengthening the short-term mobility programs’ structure, Tran said that the research had “significant implications” for guiding how curriculum-specific learning can be “embedded” in short-term mobility programs.

“It underscores the importance to design and nurture mobility experiences with an emphasis on curriculum-specific learning to complement the overall goal of the mobility program related to increasing Australian students’ cultural understandings, knowledge of the Indo-Pacific and facilitating people-to people connections and country-to country connections,” she concluded.

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