Recently, Ian Myson, director of higher education partnerships, argued that too few UK students are studying abroad.
Myson wants universities to ‘internationalise’ their students by preparing them to work within the world.
Many believe that study abroad programmes are of value as they enrich students’ university experience. In the majority of cases they are also beneficial to an individual’s future.
Not just universities
However, it may be too late for universities to inspire student’s interest in studying abroad. This is a job not just for universities but for the whole educational institution.
The British Council’s International Education Week has made efforts to address these issues.
They promote the benefits of international learning and cultural exchange – also valuing equality.
In 2015, the UKCISA reported that more than 400,000 international students study in the UK. On the other hand, British students rarely study abroad or study in a diverse range of countries.
In 2012- 2013, EU student exchange figures revealed that just 0.5% of British students went abroad. A vast majority of students went to France, Spain and Germany –a third of them were on work-placements.
Figures likely to decrease
These figures are likely to decrease over the years because of Brexit. The student community will find that fewer opportunities will be available in Europe. Many study abroad programmes are only available to EU members.
When opportunities do become available fees will be higher. The overall cost of the experience will increase and visas are also needed.
Poorer students are less likely to study abroad, especially considering the cost of living. These programs will be more accessible to wealthier British people who would be further advantaged by them.
Study abroad programs promote diversity in thought. International and cultural knowledge is important – it increases employability. Employers value those who have travelled outside of their local community.
Many also wonder how studying abroad will enhance an individual’s knowledge. It may be the case that students are satisfied with the UK’s education system.
The UK ranks 6th in the world’s best educational systems. However, the UK’s literacy rates do not rank in the top 25 (2016), undermining the quality of the system.
Poorer Caribbean countries such as Jamaica (88.7%), Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago (99%) have high literacy rates. The educational curriculum in these countries are of high quality. Barbados has the 19th highest literacy rate (99.7%) in the world (2016).
These less developed countries are rarely praised but UK students could take inspiration from them.
UK institutions should create more diverse opportunities, allowing students to come back with inspirational knowledge.