Many reports show that students who spend time abroad as part of their studies achieve higher degree outcomes. Although it is difficult to link the decision to go abroad with the outcome (i.e. that studying abroad causes academic improvement), it is nonetheless interesting to consider these findings and interpret them as signals.
The UK Higher Education International Unit's Gone International: Mobile students and their outcomes report shows that a higher proportion of mobile students who graduated in 2012/13 overall, and across all subject areas achieved a First or a 2.i. This was also the case when only considering First Class degrees as shown in the table below:
In addition, the report also shows that a higher proportion of students from various underrepresented groups performed better than their non-mobile peers- even when only considering those who achieved First Class degrees (see table below). A Times Higher Education article which discusses this can be found here.
When only considering STEM students, and as can be seen in the infographic above, 83% who were mobile achieved a 1st or a 2.i, with 39% achieving a 1st, compared with 64% and 21% of their non-mobile peers, respectively. This was the case for courses including Computer Science and Engineering graduates, for example. 81% of mobile Computer Science students achieved a 1st compared to 67% of those who weren't mobile. Similarly, 86% of mobile Engineering students achieved a 1st compared with 71% of those who weren't mobile.
As stated above, it is difficult to evidence that going abroad causes students to perform better academically, but it is worth reflecting that this study found that although 43% of all graduating students in 2012/13 were STEM students, only 1.7% of these spent time abroad during their studies, making up just 16% of mobile students between 2009/10 and 2012/13.
The full report can be found here.
Attainment in Higher Education: Erasmus and Placement Student (2009 HEFCE report)
In a study performed in 2009, it was found that 15% of Erasmus students and 19% of students taking part in study abroad achieved a 1st, only 11% of students who did not study abroad achieved a 1st. The study found that, while 75% of Erasmus students and 81% of other types of study abroad student achieved a 1st or 2:1, only 60% of non-mobile students achieved this. Read the full report here.
These positive results are supported by other evidence. In another study of Erasmus student performance, it was found that a higher percentages of Erasmus students were able to achieve first and upper seconds (73%) compared to non-Erasmus students (61%).
(HEFCE (2004) International Student Mobility: Final Report. London: HEFCE Issues Paper 30)
Degree Outcomes for Students at Risk
The GLOSSARI project (the ‘Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative’) has evidence to show that study abroad helps to improve academic performance, even for students who are not academically strong. In this research, involving over 30,000 students, studying abroad was found to help, rather than hinder, the academic performance of weaker and ‘at-risk’ students: rather than ‘de-railing’ such students, the study found that study abroad helped to improve these students' academic performance. Read the full report here.
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