Edinburgh Napier University has demonstrated its commitment to supporting student mobility opportunities. A commitment which is reflected in the University's target to achieve 800 undergraduate mobilities per year, in line with Strategy 2020. This increase will meet a clear student demand, with discipline specific, student-directed and/or international work-based learning opportunities proving popular and currently comprising over half of our annual total mobility count.
On average, only 180 students at Edinburgh Napier University undertake international placements through overseas exchanges and Erasmus+ schemes, and there has been little movement over the past few years through these more 'traditional' mobility schemes to indicate any increased appetite from the student body for these - despite significant work within the University to expand partnerships and increase promotion of these opportunities.
This brings us to our Campaign pledge…
'to develop a suite of custom-designed, short-term international activities (study tours, intensive cultural immersion activities) to diversify access to international learning opportunities and create a more inclusive approach by circumventing traditional barriers to student mobility. This builds upon our existing commitment to increase opportunities for students to acquire international experiences with a view to doubling the numbers taking part by 2020.'
In order to tailor these short-term mobility programmes, we are currently working to identify a clear base-line of currently available opportunities. We will then undertake a detailed analysis of data to identify which student groups are under-represented in respect of Edinburgh Napier's mobility offerings.
Unsurprisingly, preliminary reviews have shown that students entering the University via our many widening participation routes are less likely to engage in an international experience as part of their degree, so our pilot will focus on these cohorts. However, we are also looking to fill other opportunity gaps – for instance, where disciplines involving external accreditation make a longer period of overseas study problematic. It will be interesting to see if we identify any student groups that have not previously been recognised as 'under-represented'.
It is widely recognised that short-term mobility can have a positive influence on students in developing employability skills. A recent study commissioned by the Institute of International Education found that mobilities as short as two weeks can have a significant positive impact in eleven of fifteen personal and cognitive skills areas valued in the workplace. It was also noted that international mobilities as short as one week allow for acquisition of employability skills in key areas of teamwork and leadership. This research ties in well with Edinburgh Napier's objectives where we have set a minimum one week duration for mobilities to 'count' towards our target, and has additionally informed our decision to embed aspects of interdisciplinary, experiential learning, employability skills and personal reflection in to all of our short-term programmes.
I am aware that many universities around the UK are very experienced in managing short-term student mobility activities, and I would be pleased to hear and learn from colleagues about good practice in this area through the Go International: Stand Out campaign.