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Getting academics to help us to help their students become globally mobile

Jacqueline Armit

Deputy Head of Global Mobility
King's College London

​At King's we have a fantastic Global Mobility team who work hard to promote our overseas study (and in some cases, work) opportunities, coming up with exciting and dynamic ways to showcase what is on offer. But academic support with this promotion is crucial. 

An academic's words can complement and add weight to the message we are trying to get across and can make the difference between a student just thinking about studying abroad, and putting finger to keyboard to make their application! A key source of this academic support is our network of Study Abroad Tutors (SATs).

So, what is an SAT? Each department that can send students overseas for a semester or year has an SAT, a dedicated academic point of contact for study abroad matters, looking after both in- and outbound study abroad students. As part of our annual two-week programme of promotional events for mobility opportunities – Go Global – our team visits the departments to present on the how, the why and the where of studying abroad. The SAT will co-present to talk more specifically about the academic benefits of studying abroad, and to answer any questions on how studying abroad might practically affect a student's studies or degree results.

It's also part of their role, throughout the academic year, to keep studying abroad on the agenda and to promote it when they can, both with students and other academics. They also work with students in the run up to their overseas placement to see which modules are the best fit for them, sign learning agreements and provide academic support remotely when the student is abroad.

The SAT role is not insignificant in terms of workload and time spent on dealing with students in relation to their study abroad activities, and in many cases, it's an administrative role thrust upon them rather than one volunteered for. So how do we engage with them successfully and get their buy-in?

At the start of each academic year, department heads will dish out various administrative roles to the academics within their department, either for a general shake-up or because a staff member has left or is on sabbatical. As well as there being a page on our website about the role, I meet with any new SATs to explain the role purpose and tasks, impress upon them the importance of their role in the context of the College's international and education strategies, answer any questions they have, and (the easy bit) convince them that this is a much more fun and exciting admin role than all of the others...who'd be an assessment sub-board chair?! It's helpful if the incumbent SAT can be there for a handover and I find that they usually only have good words to say about their experience, which is encouraging for their successor.​

If an SAT has not had much to do with studying abroad in the past, and isn't convinced of the benefits, I can point them towards the wealth of information on UUKi's Go International website which demonstrates that there is a correlation between outward mobility and improved academic and employment outcomes, and also our own students' experiences.

I organise a termly forum where members of the Global Mobility team get together with the SATs over tea and biscuits to discuss issues they may be facing and give them updates on in- and outbound processes. As well as it being a trouble-shooting and information session, it's also a great chance for tutors from all faculties across the college to meet each other and share best practice. This gives a sense of community and shared responsibility which is important when they are the only person in their role with this responsibility. A good SAT can have a real impact on students in their department for motivation and guidance. So, in addition to the termly SAT fora, I'm organising our first thank you event – wine and nibbles and some guest appearances from their students – to show our appreciation.

In short, to successfully engage with our SATs to help promote studying abroad, we need to make sure we give them the information and support they need from us to undertake all parts of the SAT role. When they are suitably briefed and enthused by the Global Mobility team, the promotion naturally follows! 

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