Wider invite

May 31, 2012

I welcome Times Higher Education's argument that we don't just need more British students to study abroad: we need to encourage a wider range of universities to support student mobility as part of the drive towards social mobility ("Outward bound for glory", Leader, 24 May).

The number of UK students studying overseas is tiny compared with most other European countries, and of the 13,000 Brits taking part in the Erasmus scheme, most come from 20 (mainly Russell Group) universities.

Lack of language skills is holding some British students back, but in countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden, you can be an effective learner without speaking Dutch or Swedish, as English is so widely spoken on and off campus.

Happily, from some of THE's recent reports it seems that the UK government is at last encouraging more British students to go abroad, both for their sake and for the sake of the UK's global competitiveness in the knowledge economy. I have been researching this area to support a new consultancy service, and I know that British students from a wide cross-section of society will receive a warm welcome from institutions such as Linkoping University in Sweden.

Its vice-chancellor, Helen Dannetun, told me: "We are looking for talent, not people with a thick wallet or rich parents. The non-fee system for Swedish students is protected by Swedish law; and European Union students are treated the same as domestic [ones]. For us, internationalisation is a matter of quality, not improving the balance sheet of the university."

Welcome words indeed, I would say.

Nic Mitchell, Founder, De la Cour Communications, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire

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