Later this month the Go International programme will be living up to its name, and heading stateside for the International Institute of Education’s IIE Generation Study Abroad Summit in Washington, DC. We will be joined by around 20 UK institutional colleagues, from University of Southampton to Glasgow Caledonian, for a tightly-packed schedule of learning and networking with US and international colleagues and partners. Whether from the US, UK or further afield, we all come to DC with a single goal in mind: increasing the quantity and quality of mobility experiences, so that more of our young people can experience this life-changing opportunity.
Together with King’s College London, Go International will be presenting a ‘learning lab’ session on combining data and narrative in order to produce an informed, evidence-based and compelling case for mobility. We will present the main findings of this year’s Gone International report, Gone International: the Value of Mobility, and give practical examples of how to use the data to make the case for mobility in an institutional setting. We encourage our UK colleagues to come along and share their own experience of using a similarly evidence-based approach within their institution when addressing students, academics, directors of international, vice-chancellors, committees and others.
Outside of our session, I am excited to represent Go International internationally, and to learn from our US counterparts. In many ways the US faces similar challenges to the UK with the uptake of mobility opportunities and with the barriers to mobility that students face. The International Institute of Education and the State Department’s joint publication ‘Open Doors’ finds that, despite a tripling of participation in study abroad programmes over the past two decades, still only about 10% of Americans study abroad as undergraduates. By comparison, our Gone International report this year found that only 5.4% of first degree students who responded to the DLHE had been mobile during their degree. The British Council’s Broadening Horizons series show that barriers and drivers of mobility are similar on both sides of the Atlantic, in particular those centering around cost and language ability. As the evidence base on participation rates and perceptions of mobility continues to grow, so too does our research base on the value of mobility, and the importance of preparing our students for 21st century jobs and global challenges. The combination of this low participation rate data with the research looking at the value of mobility highlights the scale of the challenge for our two countries.
The US has responded to this challenge with a show of high-level political support, and the launch of a national campaign. A dedicated study abroad office has been set up within the State Department, which hosts its own online ‘knowledge network’, studyabroad.state.gov; Congress has started its own cross-the-aisle study abroad club of interested members, the Congressional Caucus on International Exchange and Study; and IIE has launched Generation Study Abroad, a 5-year $2 million campaign with the goal of doubling the number of U.S. students studying abroad by 2020. Since its launch last year, Generation Study Abroad has been picking up momentum, bringing together employers, governments, associations and institutions to build on best practices and to find new ways to extend study abroad opportunities to students for whom traditional study abroad programmes aren’t working. Universities, organisations and governments both at home and abroad can sign up to the campaign by making their own commitment to help increase US study abroad, building strong partnerships with US institutions, and welcoming and sending out ever more exchange students to and from the States. We are proud that the UK far outstrips any other country in its weight of commitments, with thirty-six institutions and three organisations from across the UK becoming ‘commitment partners’. The Go International programme is delighted to count itself amongst this group, with a commitment to the cause of producing a new guide on developing UK-US exchanges. This guide, to be published next year, will highlight innovative ways to overcome challenges in setting up new exchange agreements between the two countries, including for example, contractual issues involving Title 9 legislation.
The US isn’t alone with this campaign: other countries have also launched national campaigns to increase study abroad. Australia’s World Class Programme, for example, focusses on using social media, careers fairs and video testimonials from students to promote the benefits of studying overseas, and their New Colombo plan includes scholarship programmes for students to study abroad for up to a year as well as a mobility grants programme benefiting from $100 million of funding over 5 years from 2014. While the UK does not yet have a public campaign of this kind, we can learn a lot from these countries examples, as we reach a new threshold of outward mobility. Our Go International Programme and UK Strategy for Outward Mobility are entering their second phase of existence, and following the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and its potential impact on our access to the Erasmus+ programme, mobility has never had a higher profile in the UK. This is an opportune time to look abroad and seek out best practice, in order to continue to build on this momentum.
By Catriona Hanks, Outward Mobility Policy Researcher