Organisers hope it will tackle the UK’s historically low level of study abroad, which is said to be threatening young people’s capacity to compete in a global job market. Just 30,000 British study abroad each year compared to 130,000 Germans.
Just 30,000 British study abroad each year compared to 130,000 from Germany
“Primarily the benefits of outward mobility are cultural, but it also very much enhances the employability prospects of UK graduates, particularly in the global marketplace,” Anne Marie Graham, who will lead the programme, told The PIE.
“What we’ll be trying to do is work with employers to pin down exactly what the benefits are, so universities can use them to market outward mobility to students.”
The initiative, which follows a sector-wide review by the International Unit in 2011-12, will first try to get sector buy-in on a national strategy which is currently at draft stage. It will likely focus on five key areas: generating research on mobility; promoting the benefits of mobility; establishing additional scholarship funding sources; providing services for higher education institutions such as toolkits on how to extend outward mobility; and launching a portal through which all this can be accessed.
It is not known how much funding will go into the programme but it will be administered by a team of just three, suggesting the onus is on institutions to act.
Higher education consultant Nic Mitchell told The PIE that the strategy was welcome but would only succeed if it engaged families and schools.
“The outreach work in schools needs to be better…We need to embed the idea of studying abroad at an early stage”
“I do think that parents have a key role here and can often be fearful of letting their 18-year old son or daughter go abroad for even a year,” he said. “There also needs to be more marketing to sixth formers and even earlier. The outreach work in schools needs to be better, but the curriculum also needs to change. We need to embed the idea of studying abroad at an early stage.”
Other barriers will be cost, language and a lack of information and organisers are, perhaps wisely, yet to set targets. At the European Higher Education Area conference in Bucharest, Romania, last year, European education ministers set a target of 20% of Europeans studying abroad by 2020. In the UK it currently stands at just 2%.
That said, momentum has been growing to tackle the problem. Under an agreement made last year, from 2014, undergraduates who spend at least two terms of a year on an exchange programme will be charged just £1,350 – 15% of the maximum of £9,000 chargeable in a year.
As the UK’s only independent study abroad adviser with experience of the global opportunities available to British students, I am very happy to see this superb initiative set sail. There are so many other opportunities that UK students could embrace. Opportunities that in the long term can only be of benefit. That said, students must be advised that replicating a British student population on campus, is not necessarily a good thing and might have a long term detremental effect on the worth of a spefic qualification in the careeer market place.
I am looking forward to more great news from this initiative in encouraging UK students to study overseas.
Founder. Study-International Ltd
This is great news. Hopefully this will open the door to British students receiving advice delivered by professionals with firsthand experience of what study abroad can offer them. Equally, it is important that ‘Internationalisation’ is not confused with mass marketing and large campus populations of British students. Quality of opportunity is the key, as is examining the student’s motivation. Lower costs versus rising tuition fees may not secure the best opportunity for the individual in the long term.