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UK: more students than ever are going abroad during their first degree – UUKi

For the fifth year running, research by Universities UK International has revealed that more UK undergraduate students than ever are going abroad as part of their degree, up from 7.2% in 2014−15 to 7.8% in 2016−17.

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Language graduates had the highest mobility rate of 33.9%

According to UUKi’s latest ‘Gone International: rising aspirations’ report,   18,510 students had at least one period abroad as part of their undergraduate first degree, compared to 16,580 students in the previous cohort.

“These experiences have a huge and positive impact on our students”

Students from Northern Ireland were revealed to be the most mobile (13.2%), followed by Scotland (11.6%), Wales (9.7%) and England (7.2%).

Earlier this week, the UUKi supported the launch event of an initiative to increase the number of Welsh undergraduate students travelling overseas during their studies.

Unsurprisingly, language graduates had the highest mobility rate of 33.9% – rising to 87.1% if linguistics students were excluded. At the detailed subject level, mobility rates were highest for ‘Portuguese studies’ (99.2%) ‘Italian studies’ (97.3%) and ‘German studies’ (96.8%).

The next highest mobility rates were for combined subjects (32.8%), medicine and dentistry (30.8%) and veterinary science (17.2%), while the lowest mobility rates were for ‘computer science’ (2.1%), ‘education’ (2.2%) and ‘subjects allied to medicine’ (2.7%).

In terms of destination, across the three academic years, 50.8% of all mobility instances took place in the EU, and for the 2016-17 graduating cohort, more than half of mobilities (54%) of eight weeks or longer were facilitated through the Erasmus+ program.

Over a third (35.9%) of mobility from the UK was revealed to be to three countries: France was the most frequent (12.6%), followed by Spain (11.8%) and the US (11.5%).

The most frequent non-EU destinations were the US, Australia (5.4%) and Canada (3.9%), according to the report.

Commenting on the findings, director of UUKi Vivienne Stern said it is great to see the number of students studying, working or volunteering abroad as part of their studies continuing to grow.

“We know these experiences have a huge and positive impact on our students, both from these statistics and from the countless positive stories we hear via UK universities,” she said.

“This is why we launched our Go International: Stand Out campaign…we’re delighted that over 90 UK universities have now signed up to this campaign, pledging concrete action to increase opportunities for their students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to travel as part of their studies.”

This report also highlights the importance of Erasmus+ as a vehicle for outward student mobility, Stern added.

“In light of this, we encourage the UK government to commit to continuing funding study abroad opportunities for UK students, preferably through our participation in the Erasmus+ program.”

The examples of transformational international experiences highlighted in the report “demonstrate the ongoing importance of encouraging and supporting study abroad for the future benefit of global international relations and associated knowledge diplomacy”, the University of Kent’s  dean for internationalisation Anthony Manning said.

“They also highlight the urgency of our continuing need to lobby the government to find an alternative to Erasmus+, if our access to student financial support for this highly valuable activity is to be withdrawn in the near future,” Manning told The PIE News.

“While it’s pleasing to see that the number of students participating in work or study abroad continues to increase, its also evident that additional time and resource needs to be invested in order to help students from less-advantaged backgrounds to participate,” Manning added.

“This might include ‘gateway’ shorter-term experiences, as well as active and nurturing internationalisation at home experiences.”


Additional reporting by Viggo Stacey.

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