A campaign aimed at doubling the proportion of UK students who spend time abroad during their degree has been launched by Universities UK International.
The new target forms the second phase of the organisation’s UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, which since 2013 has aimed to increase the share of students who have an international experience. However, the strategy has not previously set a figure.
Just 6.6 per cent of full-time undergraduates in the UK undertook international placements during their degree in 2014. The campaign seeks to increase this figure to 13.2 per cent by 2020 in order to “create a new generation of global graduates and a higher education culture in which international opportunities are an aspiration for all students”.
Raegan Hiles, head of outward mobilities programmes at UUKi, said that while the UK has seen visible growth in outward student mobility, progress has been “slow” and UK students “still have low levels of involvement in study abroad compared [with their] counterparts overseas”.
She added that other countries have made advances through similarly ambitious outward mobility targets and campaigns.
For example, the US-based Institute of International Education launched its Generation Study Abroad programme in 2014, which aims to more than double the number of US students studying abroad to 600,000 per year by the end of the decade. The latest available data show that this figure reached 313,415 in 2014-15, a 2.9 per cent rise since the previous year.
Germany also has a goal for half its student body to spend time abroad by 2020.
One priority for the UK campaign will be to increase mobility for disadvantaged students, who are currently under-represented in this regard.
UUKi’s Gone International: Mobility Works report, published in March, found that the potential benefits of outward mobility can be greater for disadvantaged students than for other types of students.
On average, graduates from more disadvantaged backgrounds who were mobile during their degree earned 6.1 per cent more than their peers six months after graduation, while mobile black graduates were 70 per cent less likely to be unemployed than their non-mobile peers.
To achieve the target, UUKi said that it would coordinate a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of the benefits associated with study, work and volunteering abroad; secure “major investment” and new strategic partnerships to support outward mobility; help to foster bilateral exchange with priority countries; and influence the development of government policy related to outward mobility.