Report recommends measures to support and increase outward UK student mobility

A range of ways to help students gain vital international experience from overseas study and work placements was set out today in a report commissioned by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts.

The report by Professor Colin Riordan, Chair of the UK HE International Unit, looks at the incentives and obstacles to students studying and working abroad. It makes recommendations to ensure the numbers of students choosing to go abroad increases in the future.

The report’s main recommendations are:

• The development of a national strategy for outward mobility and a sector- led body to support this. Professor Riordan and the Joint Steering Group on Outward Student Mobility have now been asked to develop this idea and present options for a sector-led solution.

• A replacement scheme for the current Erasmus fee-waiver that will come into effect from the academic year 2014/15. For the first time, financial support will also extend to student placements at overseas institutions outside of the Erasmus scheme - both within and outside of the EU.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“Study abroad offers a huge range of benefits for students taking part, and also for our universities and the wider UK economy. Students improve their employability, institutions develop their international links and businesses value the wider experience of those who’ve spent time abroad. It’s a win-win for all.

“The number of UK students taking overseas placements has been low. Today’s report and our new funding arrangements will help address this gap.”

Professor Colin Riordan, Chair, UK Higher Education International Unit commented:

"Studying, working or volunteering abroad increases the employability and financial rewards for students in the international labour market. Despite this the UK ranks just 25th in the world for the number of students studying overseas.

“The Government clearly recognises the importance of outward mobility not just for students, but for higher education institutions and the UK economy and we are delighted they have listened to the recommendations set out in our report. In particular we are pleased that the Government has asked the higher education sector, through the International Unit, to explore possible models for a national mobility strategy, including a national body to co-ordinate this.

“We are also pleased they have taken seriously the recommendation of our report that there should be continued support for Erasmus mobility, despite the challenging economic circumstances. At a time when it is more important than ever for the UK to be competitive internationally, we look forward to working with the government to help increase the number of students deciding to study abroad".

Obstacles that currently inhibit outward student mobility include the inflexibility in the curriculum and the lack of recognition students receive for their time abroad. Today’s report recommends making it easier for students to spend time abroad via shorter placements and also calls for the experience to be academically recognised so that time abroad counts towards a British degree.

03 May 2012