The Global Citizenship Portfolio - recognising global learning on campus

19 June 2019

In recent years, UK universities have increased their support for student mobility. Some invest heavily in developing new, flexible options such as academic-led projects abroad and mass trips, while others are focusing on traditional study exchanges with a growing number of international partners.

Our renewed enthusiasm for mobility is driven by the need for distinctiveness and by the realisation that our graduates are missing out on developing the global skills valued by today's employers. UK global student mobility trends clearly show that we are lagging behind other European countries and that only a small proportion of our students seek global experiences.

The Go International: Stand Out campaign by Universities UK International calls on all universities to be ambitious in their support for international exchange and mobility. Collectively, we are aiming to engage 13 per cent of all undergraduate students in global mobility by 2020. The benefits for the students taking part could be significant, but designing and supporting flexible student mobility is a costly and resource-intensive undertaking. In the rush to deliver bigger and better international experiences, we often forget the 87 per cent who need to develop global skills and outlook without leaving our campuses. Should we not be putting much greater effort into developing global opportunities on campus as an accessible option for all, rather than focusing solely on physical mobility?

At Sheffield Hallam University we aim to provide a global experience to all students and create world-ready graduates who can work successfully in an increasingly globalised world. Since 2017/18, with the help of the GoGlobal Fund and academic staff who responded to our call to create flexible, short mobility projects, we doubled the percentage of students engaging in study, work or volunteering abroad.

However, as a large recruiter of widening participation students, we knew from the onset that a significant majority of our students will need to engage in global learning on campus. Many students are not able to travel abroad due to financial barriers, family commitments or heavy academic workload and/or professional placements, which make participation in global mobility projects logistically challenging. Not only do we need to embed as much of the global learning as possible in course curricula, but we should also recognise the extra-curricular global skills development students are engaging in. 

In 2017/18 we created the Global Citizenship Portfolio - a module which can be taken by undergraduate students at any level. The Portfolio facilitates flexible, extra-curricular global learning to develop students' ability to engage with different values systems and cultural contexts, to communicate effectively across cultures and to understand how their actions and those of others can have global implications.

The Portfolio engages students in self-directed, cross-cultural learning which combines academic-led sessions, lectures, experiential learning and reflection. To complete it, students:

  • attend a two-hour introductory workshop on intercultural competence development
  • engage with at least two global topics through workshops, events or additional reading.
  • undertake cross-cultural mentoring or another intercultural project on campus, in the local community or abroad
  • reflect on any changes in the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values through a reflective journal or peer-observed moderated discussion.

Any undergraduate student, who completes the four steps, gets a record on their final year transcript.

Our soft launch in November 2017 yielded interesting results. Only a quarter of the students who took part in the Portfolio activities actually completed it. Some were only interested in the global lectures while others were put off by the reflective journal required. However, we were also encouraged by the diversity of students engaging and, surprisingly, students who had undertaken study/work/visits abroad were also signing up, attracted by the more visible record of global learning on their final year transcript.

The Portfolio was adapted to reflect the student feedback and in 2018/19 we achieved a fourfold increase in the number of students completing it. As to whether it has the desired impact on the student experience or not, the current indicators would suggest that it does. 70 per cent of students who completed it undertook an intercultural experience project on campus, so it is recognising the global learning of students who, for one reason or another, choose to not engage with global mobility.

We are also evaluating its impact on the students' global citizenship skills development. Again, initial results are positive, with most students reporting that participating in the portfolio has helped them understand how global issues impact on society and felt they have developed skills to engage with them.

"One aspect of my engagement in this programme that I did not anticipate was the development of a more critical view of the media and its representation of different issues around the world"
Jessica Mell, final year student who completed the Global Citizenship Portfolio in 2018 (picture above).

Looking forward, we plan to scale up the Portfolio's capacity by incorporating some elements in course delivery and by providing more extra-curricular campus-based global learning such as virtual volunteering and virtual study exchanges.


Krassimira Teneva, Head of International Experience, Sheffield Hallam University

​Find out about UUKi's current mobility work here.

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