Students who go abroad for a short period of time as part of their degree believe they gain similarly significant benefits to those who travel overseas for a year, according to research.
A survey of 1,588 UK-domiciled undergraduates, conducted for the British Council and the UK Higher Education International Unit, found that 70 per cent of respondents who had gone abroad to study, work or volunteer felt that they had become more committed to their degree as a result.
About two-thirds said that their international experience would get them a better degree grade, and more than half felt that it would help them to secure a job on graduation.
Mobile students reported improved personal development too, with 90 per cent or more perceiving improved independence, self-confidence and intercultural understanding.
Strikingly, the study found “only very modest” differences between the extent of the benefits perceived by survey respondents with different durations of mobility, with “great consistency” between the answers of students who went abroad for a semester, and those who were overseas for a year.
Students who went abroad for only a few weeks cited somewhat lesser academic benefits, but the personal development that they perceived was “as strong” as those who were overseas for longer, even when it came to re-evaluation of their view of the UK and broadening of their outlook.
The findings are significant because students were less deterred by perceived disincentives to travel when the trip was for less than a year.
However, prospective travellers felt that there were fewer funding opportunities available for shorter periods of mobility.
Anne Marie Graham, head of the international unit’s outward student mobility programme, said that universities needed to provide “different types of opportunity to engage as many types of students as possible”.
“There are always students who want to take a year abroad but some will be unable to, so we need to think about what we can offer them,” she said. “If we have evidence that students perceive similar impacts, then it is just as valuable to offer shorter-term opportunities.”