Katherine Allinson, Policy Researcher at UUKi's Go International programme, works on delivering a European Commission-funded project to support institutions in widening participation in outward mobility for students from disadvantaged or underrepresented groups.
Today she talked to Chris Gale, International Summer Programmes Manager at Cardiff University, about the value of outward student mobility at Cardiff University and how the university is encouraging take-up by students from underrepresented groups and subjects.
Read below their discussion. Chris will be speaking in the Go International 2017 breakout session 'Reaching students from underrepresented groups' alongside Professor Ian Murray who will be presenting on Robert Gordon University’s nursing and midwifery mobility programmes. Find the full agenda to the event here.
Katherine: Chris, you are the International Summer Programmes Manager at Cardiff University. Can you tell us a little about your role and what it entails?
Chris: My role is to promote the wide range of summer programmes on offer to undergraduate students here at Cardiff University with a view to giving as many students as possible an international experience.
This entails working with various placement providers (current and prospective), such as partner universities, internship providers and volunteering organisations, both locally and worldwide.
I'm responsible for ensuring all placements are fully risk-assessed and, in the case of internships and volunteering projects, ethical, sustainable and beneficial to all parties.
Katherine: You'll be speaking at our Go International conference on a session which explores how to reach and provide for students from subjects that are underrepresented in outward student mobility. Why is it important to Cardiff University to engage students across all disciplines in outward mobility?
Chris: Firstly, the introduction of an institutional outward mobility target has shaped the importance of outward mobility across the university: By 2017, 17% of our home students will have studied, worked or volunteered abroad for at least a month during their time at Cardiff University.
Secondly, our key focus is to enhance the employability of all Cardiff University graduates, and research (including UUKi's!) demonstrates how international experiences are strongly benefitting graduates – particularly those from underrepresented subjects and backgrounds.
The availability of outward mobility opportunities is also becoming a key factor in prospective students' decision making when choosing a university, therefore it is essential to be able to offer such opportunities to students of all disciplines.
Katherine: Can you explain Cardiff University's approach to summer programmes and how these enable students from underrepresented subjects to engage with mobility?
Chris: Our summer programmes are broken down into three strands: Summer Study, Internships and Volunteering, therefore providing a huge range of opportunities to students.
Additionally, none of our summer programmes are credit-bearing, giving students complete flexibility regarding the type of placement they can choose, as well as providing the chance to study something unrelated to their degree, such as a language course, should they wish.
This broad and flexible approach is particularly appealing to students studying subjects through which students can't currently study abroad as part of their degree (such as Dentistry, whose students are very restricted by the curriculum).
Katherine: Cardiff University uses tailored marketing to target students from underrepresented fields more broadly - could you comment on that?
Chris: We try to connect with students from underrepresented fields in as many ways as possible. This includes bespoke presentations to specific year groups for whom we know it may be their only 'free' summer. Additional marketing includes tailored newsletters outlining specific opportunities which may be of particular interest to certain students.
We also take a strategic approach to targeting underrepresented subjects – for example we work with subject specific organisations, such as a volunteering project in Sri Lanka specifically for Psychology students, which has proven to be a very popular and successful project.
Katherine: It appears that collaboration across the university and engagement with other teams and faculty is key when engaging students from subjects less likely to be mobile, would you say that is fair?
Chris: Absolutely. A consistent institutional message is crucial in helping to spread the word and the value of mobility. Support from academic staff as well other student-facing services such as the Careers and Employability is key in reinforcing the benefits of outward mobility.
To this extent, each academic school has a mobility coordinator, with biannual coordinators' forums held to discuss all things mobility. We also work closely with our Careers service throughout the academic year, who assist with the promotion of our opportunities, as well as preparing students for their placements from a careers perspective.