Short-Term Mobilities Widening Participation For International Study

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The UK has left the EU following the Brexit referendum and with that, they are no longer part of the Erasmus+ programme. In place of Erasmus+, the UK government created a new scheme to allow its students to travel and work abroad as of September 2021, namely the Turing Scheme.During the past decade, shorter mobility programmes have increasingly been developed and offered by universities alongside the traditional year/semester abroad models. This is in part due to deeper international collaboration with overseas universities and organisations, and summer schools as well as research and internship opportunities offered to UK partners. It is also due to the general move to increase the number of UK students benefiting from overseas experiences.

UUKi’s new report Short-Term Mobility, Long-Term Impact published in June, presented findings and best practices. During the project, the report surveyed 749 students and ran 17 student focus groups to understand why students chose short-term travel abroad, and what the benefits were as well as the impact.

The results showed that such international opportunities provide a wide range of positive, lasting outcomes on students’ personal development, intercultural understanding, academic studies, and future employment prospects: 

  • 78% of students said that it provided an international dimension to their degree.
  • 69% stating that it built confidence in their academic ability.
  • 88% reported greater self-confidence.
  • 93% reported greater adaptability.
  • 89% felt they had developed their intercultural and interpersonal skills.
  • 93% said they had increased their understanding of different cultures.

These skills are crucial for the graduates of tomorrow, and the experiences themselves enhance CVs, making students stand out and giving them an edge during interviews.

The shorter length placements meant students could fit in their time away around their other commitments. Through structured pre-departure advice and sessions, students felt more prepared and had a greater understanding of what to expect during their time abroad.

The report showcased 16 case studies of short-term mobility experiences delivered by universities across the UK. These highlighted how varied short-term mobility programmes can be; academic-focused, designed and led by faculty; industry-based visits or placements; engagement with local community and organisations and language and cultural summer schools at international partners.

*Distinctive and common features are that they are usually highly organised, focused, structured, and intensive. They are often group-led multi-disciplinary initiatives, bringing together a diverse student population from across the university, who undertake group project-based learning as part of the experience. The case-studies also showed best practice in structured preparation of students well in advance of travel and the importance of financial scholarships and support.

It is clear that short-term mobility equips participating students with many of the skills that longer-term study abroad provides. However, what really stands out from the report is the potential that short-term mobility offers for breaking down those barriers to studying abroad often experienced by students from disadvantaged groups. 

Furthermore, it is evident how universities are particularly using such initiatives to widen participation to under-represented groups for whom longer periods of mobility can be more challenging and in doing so, ensure equity of opportunity. With levelling up a key priority of the Turing Scheme, there is huge potential to meet this objective through funds which the scheme specifically dedicates to widening participation students.