Stay-at-home students need help to get moving

European universities need to improve their efforts to help doctoral students and academics spend time abroad, a report by the European University Association has found.

September 13, 2012

A survey of faculty, students and leadership at 34 European universities suggests that, although support in studying and training abroad is well established at bachelor’s and master’s level, efforts for researchers need further work.

This is despite responses suggesting that within universities, mobility is most important for doctoral candidates and early-stage researchers. Benefits cited include the potential for time spent abroad to generate new ideas and the chance to forge joint research collaborations.

The survey, published on 4 September, also suggests that administrative staff are those least encouraged to experience life elsewhere, with only 28 per cent of respondents saying there was enough awareness that mobility was important for this group.

Mobility: Closing the Gap Between Policy and Practice is the outcome of a two-year project collectively undertaken by the EUA, Swansea University and the universities of Marburg, Oslo and Trento, aiming to map the mobility of staff and students.

The project was designed to look at how institutions are responding to pressures to increase mobility, such as the Bologna Process target to increase the number of graduates who have studied or trained abroad to 20 per cent by 2020.

According to the EUA, the lack of human resources and funding to support it has so far undermined student, doctoral candidate and staff mobility in most institutions. More than half of respondents in the study cite insufficient resources as one of the main obstacles to student and academic staff mobility.

Almost a third say concern over the quality of education in other institutions prevents them sending students elsewhere, while 23 per cent say that the risk of losing good doctoral students is also an obstacle.

The EUA’s report recommends that universities improve their efforts to collect data and monitor different kinds of mobility across their institutions.

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