From education to employment

Help for students from disadvantaged groups to study, work and volunteer abroad?

New toolkit aims to help widen participation in this outward student mobility

Following an international placement, a student from the project focus group said,

“After being thrust into an adult experience of going to a new country, doing admin and tax in a foreign language, building a social network, I am now more ready for graduation.”

Research by Universities UK International (UUKi) shows a correlation between outward student mobility and improved academic and employment outcomes. Graduates who were mobile during their degree were less likely to be unemployed (3.7% compared to 4.9%), and more likely to have earned a first class or upper second class degree.

However, another report also shows that underrepresented student groups are less likely to undertake international placements, despite having the most to gain from these experiences.

Today (12 Dec), with a launch event in Brussels, UUKi publishes a toolkit of recommendations and best practice case studies to help the sector increase participation in programmes to work, study and volunteer abroad by students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds.

The publication is part of a project focusing on students from low socio-economic backgrounds, students from low participation neighbourhoods, black and minority ethnic students, students with a disability and students who are care leavers.

Key recommendations include: 

  • taking a whole institution approach to widening participation in mobility 
  • being student led when designing programmes and delivering support 
  • offering short term opportunities 
  • providing targeted funding 
  • using diverse marketing channels 
  • providing information to parents and guardians

The toolkit is the second part of the Widening participation in UK outward student mobility project, and is supported by the UK National Agency for Erasmus+ and the Department for Education.

It includes case studies of good practice from 16 universities and four colleges. The case studies include offering pre-mobility support, student support and targeted funding.

Placing student voices at the centre of efforts to widen participation in mobility is crucial. The project team ran focus groups with students from the five underrepresented groups with topics including motivators, barriers and challenges to mobility and how best to address the gap in participation. 

Students interviewed for the project were unanimous that spending time overseas had been life changing and impacted their lives in a positive way.

These students recommended that institutions: 

  • Help students start preparing for their placements early
  • Offer expert support when preparing for mobility and while in-country 
  • Deliver employability skills through post-mobility activities 

Vivienne Stern, Director of UUKi comments: “We have seen that students from disadvantaged groups are less likely to participate in study, work and volunteer abroad programmes, yet these activities can have massive benefits for these students’ subsequent careers. This toolkit offers universities practical recommendations from both institutions and students themselves. The toolkit is also a fantastic opportunity to showcase excellent work from universities and colleges in this area. Via our Go International: Stand Out campaign we aim to galvanise the sector to double the number of undergraduate students studying, working and volunteering abroad as part of their studies. This publication is an important tool for universities as they look to engage students from every community and every background in these programmes.”

About Universities UK International: Universities UK International (UUKi) represents UK higher education institutions (HEIs) globally and helps them flourish internationally. To do this we actively promote UK HEIs abroad, provide trusted information for and about them, and create new opportunities through our unique ability to act at sector level. We draw on UK university expertise to influence policy in the UK and overseas, delivering information, advice and guidance to facilitate mutually beneficial collaboration between UK HEIs and a broad range of international partners.

The Widening Participation in UK Outward Student Mobility project, delivered by Universities UK International, supported by the UK National Agency for Erasmus+ , and managed by the UK’s Department for Education (DfE) is funded through the Key Action 3 strand of the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme, which provides support for the implementation of European Higher Education Area (EHEA) reforms.

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