Progress on UK’s outward student mobility rate stalls

Share of students going abroad has remained stable for last two years of data

May 10, 2018
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Holding pattern: the proportion of UK students going abroad is static, but the diversity of the cohort is expanding

Progress on improving the outward mobility rate of UK students has stalled, but a more diverse range of undergraduates are choosing to go abroad, a new report says.

Just 7.2 per cent of undergraduates who graduated in 2015-16 went overseas to study, work or volunteer during their degree – the same share that did so among the 2014-15 cohort – according to an analysis of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey conducted by Universities UK International (UUKi), published on 10 May.

While the absolute number of students that went abroad rose slightly from 16,165 to 16,580 during this period, the mobility rate remained stable owing to an increase in the overall student population.

The findings suggest that UUKi’s campaign to improve student mobility is making slow progress; last year the organisation set a new target to double the share of full-time undergraduates taking international placements during their degree to 13.2 per cent by 2020 (from 6.6 per cent in 2014).

However, the report, Gone International: Expanding Opportunities, also reveals that the share of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and the share of black and Asian students going abroad has increased.

Among the 2014-15 graduating cohort, 3.6 per cent of black students, 4.4 per cent of Asian students and 4.8 per cent of students from low socio-economic backgrounds went overseas during their course.

These participation rates increased among the 2015-16 graduating cohort to 4.2 per cent of black students, 5.5 per cent of Asian students and 5.1 per cent of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The report notes that the methodology has changed slightly, with this year’s analysis based on the rate of participation during students’ entire degree programme. Last year’s analysis on the background of students was based on rate of participation by the 2014-15 cohort in their second year of study only.

A UUKi spokeswoman said that “widening participation is at the heart of our campaign to double the percentage of UK students who go abroad as part of their studies, and we are happy to see this progress year-on-year”.

“The campaign will continue to build on this strong foundation,” she said. “Momentum behind the campaign is growing – 76 universities have now joined the campaign, each making a pledge to boost and broaden mobility from their institutions.”

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