From a UK context, the full impact of Brexit is still to be seen as the process of re-examining exchange agreements begins – particularly as the UK approaches the end of 10 years of Erasmus Plus.
Previously, all our European agreements were Erasmus, so we have to look at the partnerships, evaluate them and let them withdraw. In addition, new GDPR legislation is being introduced in the UK which will affect the way these agreements are developed.
The UK higher education sector therefore needs to proactively maintain its mobility position.
The introduction of the Turing Study Abroad Funding Scheme as a replacement for Erasmus Plus has led to problems.
The program is intended to cover living expenses, but unlike the Erasmus Plus program, it does not cover tuition fees. It also has a wider geographical scope as it is not limited to Europe; students can travel all over the world.
As promising as the scheme seems, the application process for students and institutions is still cumbersome and needs to be integrated into the wider system. The minimum travel time requirement is one month under Turing Funding. A month is a long time for a student to take off over the summer; the diversity of students and the range of opportunities available therefore decrease.
At the University of Hull, we have bridged this gap by offering two-week summer opportunities, which we have developed in partnership with other universities, organizations and donors to help fund scholarships. We are currently looking into how to write this into our budgets. In general, universities will need to find new sources of funding to support the maintenance and development of student mobility.
An important aspect of the current student mobility climate is the myriad of post-Covid, economic and geopolitical factors that have increased the cost of living. This has an impact on the perceived importance and affordability of mobility for both institutions and students.
“There are fewer places for mobility for students”
Scholarships and the availability of funding for both students and institutions are essential to reviving the availability of student mobility opportunities. There are fewer places for students to be mobile, so universities need to find effective and efficient ways to develop systems that can lead to more options.
Fragmented mobility systems need to expand and provide adequate funding to students with facilities and specific programs that lead to mobility partnerships. Consequently, universities need to reinvest in mobility systems that can support innovation in exchange approaches. The sector should continue to take advantage of shorter-term mobility opportunities that will increase diversification into summer schools, volunteering, excursions and study trips.
The University of Hull has made a deliberate effort to internationalize its UK campus. This involved integrating the university’s growing international student population into the functioning of the institution – creating opportunities for all students to exchange culturally and understand different ways of interacting and solving challenges.
The benefits of student mobility are essential to enhance the student experience and develop employability skills.
Universities UK International shows the benefits of mobility and has produced reports on this in the last year or so. Short-term mobility can have a huge impact on students’ soft skills.
A better term than soft skills would be core skills – curiosity, problem solving, all those things that will benefit students. Statistics also show that mobility increases employability.
Historically, universities have placed a huge emphasis on the career team. Especially for students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds, as there is a need to broaden their thinking.
But now the higher education sector needs to prioritize innovation and find unconventional ways to increase student and staff engagement globally.
About the author: This is a sponsored post by Alice McLuckie, Head of Global Experience, University of Hull. Alice has over a decade of experience working in higher education in the UK, specializing in student mobility opportunities. As Head of Global Experience, he oversees the team responsible for study abroad programs, short courses, summer schools, English language teaching and internationalization on campus.