Since its launch in September 2013, #DMUglobal’s innovative approach to student mobility has seen over 3000 DMU students go overseas as part of their degree. There have been a number of fundamental principles that have underlined the success of the programme:
For any international or mobility programme to be a success it has to have the institutional backing at the highest levels from both academics and professional services. #DMUglobal was launched by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dominic Shellard with the vision that all DMU students would have international experiences by 2020. The ambition was great, and the target greater, but it is only through such strong commitments that #DMUglobal was able to become such a success.
Early buy-in from the Board of Governors, Executive Board and other senior bodies allowed the university to financially back the programme with the necessary funds to ensure its success. Financial backing was given to develop a large team and also to provide bursaries for students. Not simply relying on external sources of finance for mobility (Erasmus+) allowed a more flexible and accelerated growth.
Moreover, #DMUglobal was a core component of the university’s new Institutional Strategy, and inspired the new International Strategy, Global Instinct, ensuring that student mobility is no longer a peripheral, ‘nice to have’ activity but a core part of university business and the student experience.
Student support and experience
The student experience and the support offered for going overseas has to sit at the heart of everything you do. #DMUglobal broke with the mould by developing a standalone website dedicated entirely to outward mobility opportunities. This ensured that students had access to a one stop shop for all questions, rather than navigating the maze of university websites where mobility is often a footnote.
Also, as part of the student support package #DMUglobal provides a mini package of useful materials, gadgets and documentation before going overseas. Furthermore, as part of our commitment to widening participation and ensuring all students can overseas we offer generous bursaries. Students can also access hardship funds, and other funding sources to ensure finance isn’t a barrier to participation
Diverse types of mobility
#DMUglobal and De Montfort University understand that international experiences come in all shapes and sizes and we embraced all of them as part of the programme. We designed and offered opportunities for students from a matter of days up to an entire year, recognising the needs, interests and circumstances of our diverse student body. Having a particular focus on shorter-term academic-led opportunities has been at the heart of our success.
In addition, the inclusion of both academic and co-curricular mobility has ensured we engage the widest demographic possible. With a strong ethos of public good we offer many volunteering opportunities in summer. Moreover, with our overseas partners we offer students excellent summer school opportunities to build experience beyond their formal course structure. Lastly, an exciting new initiative we offered this year was for societies and sports to design overseas opportunities following the same guiding principles of #DMUglobal.
The largest and most successful type of overseas mobility #DMUglobal has offered is the academic-led trips. This short term, academically embedded overseas opportunity approach was inspired by the faculty-led programmes common at universities in the US.
To make any mobility programme work, we understood we needed to bridge the chasm between academics and professional services to get their support, and we have achieved this through various approaches. Running a central project to academically embed international experiences into all undergraduate programmes has been an ambitious undertaking, but has transformed the curriculum at DMU and brought mobility to the academics in an accessible format. Moreover, the focus of #DMUglobal on upskilling our staff, offering training and support (financial and structural) has helped us achieve our targets together.
Branding and marketing
Last, but by no means least, is the necessity to develop a strong brand for your mobility programme. #DMUglobal is the by-word for anything international at DMU, testament to its strong brand and visibility around campus. Having a logo, style and clear visual identity developed in cooperation with marketing experts has been a real boost for #DMUglobal. Quite simply, we make #DMUglobal look fun, exciting and something that all students want to be involved in, and we sell this dream in our exciting ‘Adventure Continues’ video.
In 2016, for #DMUglobal, De Montfort University was the THE Leadership and Management Award winner for Outstanding International Strategy
By Leo Smith, #DMUglobal Manager, De Montfort University
Photo credit: De Montfort University