The UK must engage with businesses to increase the number of UK students studying abroad
“Doubling the number of students studying abroad in three years is an extremely ambitious target, but the UK sector is united in its determination to get there”
The recent Open Doors data revealed that in 2016-17, the number of US bachelor students studying abroad as part of their degree rose by 2.3% to 16%. For those of us in the UK higher education sector, these figures are both enviable and encouraging.
The UK’s Go International: Stand Out campaign to double the per cent of UK undergraduate students studying abroad to 13% is now entering its second year. This year the campaign will focus its efforts on engaging commercial and international partners – following in the footsteps of successful campaigns by the likes of the US and Japan.
The UK sector is putting considerable thought, energy and resource into increasing its numbers. 83 UK universities have made pledges to help hit the campaign target. These include developing mobility bursaries for students from widening participation backgrounds, offering short-term mobility opportunities and embedding mobility in the curriculum.
At the institutional level, some of the results in the first year of the campaign have been staggering: the University of Bradford has achieved an 85% increase in home, EU and international students going abroad; Northumbria University Newcastle has achieved a 21% increase in outward mobility and Cardiff University has almost doubled the number of students undertaking international summer programmes.
On a national scale, however, the results of the campaign remain to be seen. We won’t see the HESA data for the first year of the campaign (17-18) until summer 2019. The latest available HESA data shows that in the academic year 2016-17, the percentage of students studying abroad crept up 0.4% to 7%. This is encouraging but hardly ground-breaking. If we want to hit 13% by 2020, the campaign must make a significant impact. We hope that by continuing to build up our campaign coalition and engaging with international and commercial partners we can do that.
“If we want to hit 13% by 2020, the campaign must make a significant impact”
The Japanese campaign, Tobitate, clearly indicates that there is an appetite among global businesses to support the development of global graduates. Tobitate was launched by the Ministry of Education (MEXT) as a public-private partnership. The campaign ran a survey of Japanese companies operating outside of Japan and 70% responded that sourcing globally skilled graduates were a major problem. Many companies, from Japan Airlines to Toyota, have joined the campaign.
In the US, there are plenty of examples of successful partnerships between the higher education sector and commercial organisations or international partners. IES Abroad pledged $2 million in scholarship funding annually to students from its consortium member institutions with an emphasis on need-based aid and grants. CIEE’s Passport Caravan is working with US colleges and universities to reduce administrative barriers to study abroad. Go Overseas’ has collaborated with foreign governments on scholarships opportunities to go abroad. Via TRM is exploring how best to get first-year students to plan their study abroad experience.
“Working with partners beyond our sector is the next step in our journey”
In the UK, too, there are already some fantastic joint-schemes between universities and commercial partners. This year, Goldsmiths University launched their Go International Bursary with funding from Santander Universities, offering first and second-year undergraduates from a widening participation background up to £1,000 to support short-term international activities over the summer.
At the national level, Go International: Stand Out has already welcomed a number of non-university partners. The Higher Education Statistics Agency has pledged to provide the UK’s outward student mobility data to the campaign to enable us to track progress against the target, Student.com has pledged a series of student-facing videos themed around some of the main barriers to mobility in the UK, and GVI has pledged supportive media efforts.
As year two of the Go International: stand Out campaign progresses, our goal is to make partnerships of this kind the norm. Doubling the number of students studying abroad in three years is an extremely ambitious target, but the UK sector is united in its determination to get there. Working with partners beyond our sector is the next step in our journey.
About the author: Catriona Hanks is the Outward Student Mobility Lead at Universities UK International. Catriona leads the work UUKi does to aid and improve outward student mobility in the UK, leading on the UK’s first outward student mobility campaign, Go International: Stand Out and managing a programme of research, capacity-building and advocacy.