Widening Participation in Outward Mobility

Widening Participation in Outward Mobility

What is the value of outward mobility?

There are many reasons to encourage students to work, study and volunteer abroad:

  • the benefits to their future employment,
  • the chance to study an international curriculum,
  • the cultural experience of living abroad, and
  • the opportunity to create an international network.

Findings from UUKi's Gone International Report 2016 show that mobile students have better degree outcomes, lower unemployment rates and higher starting salaries than their non-mobile peers.

And yet, the UK has a comparably low rate of outward student mobility in comparison to other countries within the European Higher Education Area.

Deterrents and concerns for students who aspire to study or work overseas count:

  • fear of isolation,
  • insufficient funding,
  • lack of knowledge of available opportunities,
  • lack of language skills and language training options, and
  • the potential impact on degree length.

Further barriers to outward mobility for disadvantaged students

For some groups of students further barriers exist. We know that more students are now entering higher education from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Yet participation in outward mobility is still dominated by those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. For example, the 2014–15 outward mobility participation rate for students from higher socio-economic backgrounds was 2.2%, compared with 1.3% for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Although both figures are low, we see that more advantaged students were nearly twice as likely to go abroad as part of their degree.

In addition to the barriers already highlighted, students from disadvantaged or under-represented demographics can encounter further challenges including extra financial constraints, accessibility issues, caring responsibilities and work commitments.

Strong correlation between outward mobility and student success

The Gone International: Value of Mobility 2016 report showed that there were improved employment outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and BME students who underwent mobility compared to their non-mobile peers.

Looking at the 2013–14 graduating cohort, the report indicated that 'a significantly lower proportion of graduates who were mobile from disadvantaged backgrounds were unemployed.'

In light of these findings, it is vital that the barriers to mobility for students from disadvantaged backgrounds are acknowledged and addressed by institutions and that appropriate support is put in place.

In 2015 as part of the follow up to the Bologna process, the Yerevan Communique recognised the impact of study abroad on graduate employability and called for greater access to international mobility opportunities for disadvantaged and under-represented students.

Outward Mobility was described as 'a powerful means to expand the range of competences and the work options for students.'

Across Europe, governments and higher education institutions are striving towards a collective student mobility ambition of 20% by 2020.

To meet this goal, many countries have already begun to shift their focus from the numbers of students participating to the accessibility of mobility opportunities. They are exploring who participates and how students from under-represented groups (including socio-economically disadvantaged students, black and minority ethnic groups and disabled students) can be supported to access these opportunities.

The Widening Participation in Outward Mobility project

UUKi are delivering a European Commission-funded project on behalf of the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the National Agency to support institutions in widening participation in outward mobility for students from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups.

UUKi will publish a report and a toolkit that will help the sector overcome challenges that exist for these students. By adopting and adapting the activities and approaches promoted in the toolkit, higher education institutions and colleges of further education will be able to develop and implement effective strategies for widening participation in outward mobility beyond the traditional student body.

The project will analyse national mobility data to build a picture of participation. It will also support four institutions from the UK (three higher education institutions and one college of further education) to conduct detailed analysis of their mobility programmes, with a focus on underrepresented groups.

The target demographics are:

  • students from low socio-economic backgrounds
  • students from low participation neighbourhoods
  • Black and Minority Ethnic students
  • disabled students
  • students who are care leavers.

This analysis will include student focus groups to ensure that the student voice is central to the project's recommendations. The toolkit will feature good practice examples from institutions across the sector through a national call.

We are inviting institutions to submit examples of their good practice in this area for inclusion in our internationally transferable toolkit on effective practice. Download and fill in the case study template to submit a case study for your institution for inclusion in the final toolkit visit our website; then email it to Katherine Allinson.

The research report and the toolkit will be launched in Brussels in December 2017. The toolkit will be available worldwide in digital format, free to download from UUKi's Go International website. To submit your case study please fill in the template and email Katherine Allinson.


Katherine Allinson will be discussing this project in-depth at the Go International conference on 25 April.


Our team


Measuring transnational education: changes to the TNE data landscape

10 May 2021
Eduardo Ramos, Head of TNE and Griff Ryan, Transnational Education Projects Officer share insights on the new data on UUKi's Scale of TNE interactive webpage.

You can’t create virtual exchange overnight: what we have learnt from moving international experiences online

20 April 2021
Leo Smith, Head of Global Mobility at De Montfort University shares reflections from moving mobility experiences online during the pandemic.