Sir Martin Sorrell once said, if one aspires to move upward, one needs to move outward. As the map of global business is being redrawn in a post-Brexit and post-Trump world, international experience is rising in importance on every employer's wish list.
The Erasmus Impact Study of 2014 evidence this demand by reporting that 64% of employers argued that students with an international experience as part of their degree are more employable – up from 33% in 2006.
More recently, the importance of outward student mobility has been emphasised in Gone International: Mobility Works, a report by UUKi, which looked at the value of, and relationship between, mobility and employability. The report found that unemployment rates among mobile students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were lower across almost all socioeconomic backgrounds, with 5% of mobile graduates unemployed six months after graduation compared to 7% of their non-mobile peers.
So, the fusion of two strategically important institutional agendas, employability and internationalisation, are gaining traction in the higher education sector, not just in the UK but also internationally. Bournemouth University (BU) responded to this opportunity by establishing The Global Talent Programme (GTP). The Programme is an innovative extra-curricular framework, aims to develop students as future-ready job seekers and creators through exposure and immersion in global opportunities, projects and challenges.
The GTP is an exciting new development at BU. It was initially founded on extensive research from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and more recently has been supported through HEFCE's Catalyst Fund. It has creatively integrated two key philosophies and service areas - that of internationalisation and employability. Most universities are shaping their offers on each of these agendas separately, whereas, the GTP merges these together and places the student, and their learning careers, at the heart of its proposition.
The GTP is a learner-led student support framework with 4.5% of the overall student population at BU engaged across 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Programme provides over 110 activities, both physical and digital meaning it tailors the experience to the learner. This includes a range of international engagement and immersion opportunities, both physical (travel and mobility) and digital (virtual and simulated activities) on campus and overseas.
On campus, the student experience is enriched through a range of global immersion events, sessions and workshops as part of the GTP such as Global BUzz events, One World Day, the BU Be Global Festival, the Global Challenge Summit.
The provision of international opportunities to students, such as BU's cohort-based destination programmes in China and India, as well as the Global Festival of Learning (GFoL) taking place on a global stage in multiple host countries, add a global experiential dimension to the Programme.
The GTP enables experiential and practical learning through real-life activities on a global stage, whereby BU students undertake international research projects in China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, which enable them to respond to a global challenge, such as the skills mismatch in China and India and disseminate solutions internationally during the GFoL. Other students are involved in professional roles, such as event management, PR and media, and filming.
Despite a less than ideal geo-political environment in the West, there is enough evidence to suggest that the future is increasingly global. It is predicted that 50% of the global workforce by 2030 will come from China and India alone – this will require globally-aware graduates, who can work confidently across cultures and boundaries. Over 50% of all students in the world already come from Asia and this trend is likely to continue towards 2050.
This year, UUKi published its UK Strategy for Outward Student Mobility 2017 – 2020, which aspires to double the percentage of UK-domiciled students who undertake international placements to 13.2% by 2020. The strategy aims to be a catalyst for uplifting the importance of outward student mobility in UK higher education, not only in terms of meeting student mobility targets, but also for strengthening Brand Britain and positioning it out in the world.
There are already a number of fantastic examples from the UK HE sector in preparing graduates for global careers, such as Coventry University and its pioneering Global Leaders Programme, as well as De Montfort University's #DMUglobal initiative. But we need more evidence of the integration of a global outlook in the core curricular and careers provision in our universities.
More evidence from institutions on how they link employability and internationalisation to prepare students to enrich the world and bring about positive change in their countries, economies and communities is always welcome. Global talent that carries a 'Made in Britain' tag is after all the biggest impact story of UK higher education.