Around the world, countries are setting ambitious targets to ensure that more students have the opportunity to spend time abroad as part of their degree. Germany wants 50% of students to spend go abroad by 2020, and the US and France have both committed to doubling the number of students going abroad over the next few years.
Research suggests that going abroad as part of your degree brings a wealth of benefits. Our latest Gone International study, "mobility works", examines a cohort of UK domiciled undergraduate students graduating in 2014-15 and their outcomes six months after graduation. The study finds that, on average, the students in this cohort who have studied, volunteered or worked abroad are less likely to be unemployed, more likely to be in a graduate job, and enjoy a higher starting salary.
The outcomes of mobile and not mobile students compared six months after graduation
low participation rates in the UK are in part driven by the underrepresentation
of particular groups of students. In the UK, students from disadvantaged backgrounds
and BME students are much less likely than their peers to go abroad. In the
sample examined, white students were more than twice as likely as black
students to go abroad, and students from more advantaged backgrounds were also
almost twice as likely as those from more disadvantaged backgrounds to go
abroad. The lowest participation rates were amongst black students from more
disadvantaged backgrounds. Just 1 in 37 of these students went abroad.
Mobility rates by socio-economic background and ethnicity
students and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are among the least
likely to go abroad, evidence suggests that these students might stand to
benefit the most from the opportunity. Differences in the unemployment rates of
mobile and not-mobile students are most pronounced among BME students and those
from disadvantaged backgrounds. The difference in the unemployment rates of
mobile and not mobile black students was 3.2 percentage points compared to a
difference of 0.8% amongst white students.
participation of particular groups of students is concerning, and further
research is necessary to fully understand why some students are more likely to
go abroad than others. UUKi are leading on an EU
commission funded project looking at participation in
outward mobility by students from disadvantaged and under-represented
backgrounds. We are aiming to produce a report this summer, followed by a
toolkit of best practice in Autumn.
The UK has
made significant progress in recent years to expand opportunities for all
students to go abroad. However, the UK’s vote to leave the EU has implications
for mobility within Europe.. The EU’s student and staff mobility programme, Erasmus+, has supported over half of all UK students who went
abroad. The programme helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds through the
provision of top-up grants. It also funds higher education reform, fosters institutional
cooperation and develops strategic partnerships. It has a strong and
recognisable brand, and an unparalleled network of hundreds of thousands of
alumni from the UK alone. For these
reasons, Universities UK is asking the government to prioritise continued
access to Erasmus+ in Brexit negotiations.
Given the value of
opportunities for students studying, working or volunteering abroad as part of
their degrees (both inside and outside of Erasmus+), we are also asking the
government to increase the range of opportunities available to UK students and
to underpin this with a quantitative target to enhance participation. Spending
a period abroad allows students to enhance their global networks, as well as
their intercultural and language skills. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it
is vital that these opportunities are not only protected, but enhanced.